Context-dependent individual behavioral consistency in Daphnia

Jan Heuschele, Mikael T. Ekvall, Giuseppe Bianco, Samuel Hylander, Lars-Anders Hansson

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The understanding of consistent individual differences in behavior, often termed "personality," for adapting and coping with threats and novel environmental conditions has advanced considerably during the last decade. However, advancements are almost exclusively associated with higher-order animals, whereas studies focusing on smaller aquatic organisms are still rare. Here, we show individual differences in the swimming behavior of Daphnia magna, a clonal freshwater invertebrate, before, during, and after being exposed to a lethal threat, ultraviolet radiation (UVR). We show consistency in swimming velocity among both mothers and daughters of D. magna in a neutral environment, whereas this pattern breaks down when exposed to UVR. Our study also, for the first time, illustrates how the ontogenetic development in swimming and refuge-seeking behavior of young individuals eventually approaches that of adults. Overall, we show that aquatic invertebrates are far from being identical robots, but instead they show considerable individual differences in behavior that can be attributed to both ontogenetic development and individual consistency. Our study also demonstrates, for the first time, that behavioral consistency and repeatability, that is, something resembling "personality," is context and state dependent in this zooplankter taxa.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01679
JournalEcosphere (Washington, D.C.)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017


  • Animal personality
  • Behavioral type
  • Daphnia
  • UV radiation
  • Zooplankton


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