Urbanization and biological invasion shape animal personalities

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Novel selective pressures derived from human activities challenge the persistence of animal populations worldwide. Behavior is expected to be a major factor driving animals’ responses to global change because it largely determines how animals interact with the environment. However, the role of individual variation in behavior to facilitate the persistence of animals in changing environments remains poorly understood. Here, we adopted an animal personality approach to investigate whether different behavioral traits allow animals to deal with two major components of global change: urbanization and biological invasions. By studying six populations of Anolis sagrei lizards, we found for the first time that anoles vary consistently in their behavior across different times and contexts. Importantly, these animal personalities were consistent in the wild and in captivity. We investigated whether behavioral traits are pulled in different directions by different components of global change. On the one hand, we found that lizards from urban areas differ from nearby forest lizards in that they were more tolerant of humans, less aggressive, bolder after a simulated predator attack, and they spent more time exploring new environments. Several of these risk-taking behaviors constituted a behavioral syndrome that significantly differed between urban and forest populations. On the other hand, the behavior of urban A. sagrei coexisting with the invasive predatory lizard Leiocephalus carinatus was associated with dramatic changes in their foraging niche. Overall, we provide evidence that differences in animal personalities facilitate the persistence of animals under novel selective regimes by producing adaptive behaviors relevant to their ecology such as predator avoidance. Our results suggest that natural selection can favor certain behaviors over others when animals are confronted with different ecological challenges posed by global change. Therefore, we underscore the need to incorporate behavioral ecology into the study of how animals adaptively respond to human-induced environmental changes.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Global Change Biology