The Bold and the Bashful – has the evolution of personality traits aided invasion success in cane toads (Rhinella marina)? (#878)
Animals have personalities. That is, individuals behave consistently through time and across contexts. Because personality influences fitness-relevant behaviours such as competition, anti-predator behaviour and finding and attracting mates, we would expect personality traits to evolve, under the same mechanisms that drive evolution in morphology, physiology, and other aspects of behaviour. Invading species offer a powerful model system in which to explore this issue, because personality traits such as bold, exploratory and neophilic behaviours can enhance dispersal, and an individual’s ability to deal with novel environments. Thus, we expect individuals in the invasion vanguard to exhibit bold, exploratory and neophilic personality traits (compared to conspecifics from long-colonised populations). That spatial pattern might arise either through spatial sorting, or natural selection. I studied cane toads from Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, to test this prediction. In my talk, I will describe ways to quantify personality traits in anurans, summarise the results of my laboratory trials, and discuss the evolution of behavioural syndromes (suites of consistently correlated behavioural traits across time and context) that may have contributed to the rapid spread of cane toads across the Australian continent.