Proximate and ultimate causes of personality in a non-aggressive, African ground squirrel
The study of animal personality has changed the way ecologists think about individual behavior, yet evidence regarding how personality traits are maintained, both proximately and ultimately, is generally lacking in free-living populations. I examined 1) which extrinsic and intrinsic factors are related to personality traits and 2) if traits are maintained by life history trade-offs in Cape ground squirrels (Xerus inauris). I measured personality using three tests: open-field test for exploration, flight initiation distance tests for boldness, and handling indices for docility. Time of day and date affected the outcomes of personality tests. Further, better body condition was correlated with higher activity and a lower fecal index. I found no evidence that personality traits were related to either long-term cortisol levels or measures of reproductive success and survival. More research is needed to determine how personality traits arise and are maintained in a non-aggressive species like Cape ground squirrels.
Animal personality, Cape ground squirrel, Xerus inauris, Life history trade-offs, Hair cortisol