Long-term vs. short-term consistency of social personality traits and salivary cortisol levels in common marmosets.

Vedrana Slipogor, Jorg J.M. Massen, Eva Millesi, Thomas Bugnyar

Animal personality stands for a correlated suite of non-social (boldness-shyness, exploration-avoidance and activity) and social (aggressiveness and sociability) behavioural traits, consistent across time and/or contexts. Although studies of personality rely heavily on repeatability of data, both short term (days/weeks) and long term (months/years) repeatability have rarely been tested. Physiological mechanisms that may provide a proximate explanation for the maintenance of a consistent inter-individual variation are also relatively unexplored, especially in combination with behavioural data. In this study we measured both behavioural and physiological responses of common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) in two behavioural tests (Mirror and Video Test), repeated after a short seventeen-day break and a long one-year break. In the Mirror Test, we presented our subjects with a mirror, and in the Video Test, we replaced the mirror with a computer screen on which a video recording of an unfamiliar same-sex individual was presented. In addition, saliva samples were taken immediately before and ten minutes after the tests, and from these we deduced corresponding delta values. In both tests, we predicted that seeing an “unfamiliar conspecific“ evokes social (affiliative or agonistic) and physiological (increase or decrease in salivary cortisol levels) responses in this highly territorial species, and that the degree of this response should vary consistently between individuals. We will discuss whether both behavioural and endocrine responses are consistent in both the short and long-term, and whether inter-individual differences in cortisol levels are correlated to social personality traits, i.e. whether more sociable individuals show an increase or decrease in salivary cortisol levels after seeing an unfamilar conspecific than less social individuals. This study complied with the International Primatological Society (IPS) Guidelines for the Use of Nonhuman Primates in Research.

Department of Behavioral and Cognitive Biology, Core Facility KLF for Behavior and Cognition
Folia Primatologica
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
106051 Behavioural biology, 106048 Animal physiology, 106054 Zoology
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