Tiny guppy fish have individual 'personalities', according to a laboratory study by scientists at the University of Exeter in Penryn. Jim Drury reports.
These guppies may be tiny but scientists say they have individual personalities. University of Exeter researchers mark the fish with small coloured tags before exposing them to stress. SOUNDBITE (English) DR TOM HOUSLAY, CENTRE FOR ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION (CEC), UNIVERSITY OF EXETER (PENRYN), SAYING: "First we do what's called an open field trial where We take an individual, put it into an empty tank and just film its behaviour for several minutes. We have a video tracking system that allows us to track where the guppy is going, how it is behaving.....we had a model heron and this smashes down into the water and were able to then film how the guppy behaves after this stressor." By observing known individuals before and after simulated attack, researchers can see consistent behavioural differences. SOUNDBITE (English) DR TOM HOUSLAY, CENTRE FOR ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION (CEC), UNIVERSITY OF EXETER (PENRYN), SAYING: "After we used the predator model then all of the guppies became more cautious, so all starting to freeze more or use the shelter more or spend less time in the middle of the tank. But still these individual differences, this personality, was conserved across the pre and post stressors. So guppies that were relatively more exploratory and relatively more bold than others in the population even after the predator attack, even when they become more shy or more cautious we still find these differences in personality." Researchers want to know how the fish's personality is driven by genetics. They also hope to predict how guppies will react to future environmental pressures.