Greene, Brian D. Department of Biology
Missouri State University Springfield, Missouri, USA
Behavioral ecologists have traditionally assumed that populations adapt to environmental conditions with one or more optimal strategies. However, recent evidence has shown that behavioral, life historical, and physiological tendencies often vary consistently among individuals, forming syndromes of responses. Behavioral syndromes, in particular, have been characterized in diverse taxa. However, relatively few studies have investigated snake personality. We evaluated a cohort of juvenile cottonmouths (Agkistrodon piscivorus) for consistency in individual performance across two behavioral measures: assertiveness (represented by foraging tasks) and boldness (represented by the defensive responses toward a predator), and thermal performance (sprint speed) and temperature preference in a thermal gradient. Individual responses were highly repeatable for behavioral measures, consistent with the concept of personality in these snakes. Thermal performance also varied consistently among individuals. However, thermal preference was not correlated with thermal performance or behavioral traits. Our results suggest that, unlike some heliothermic lizards, cottonmouths personality types do not logically correspond to thermal types.