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The final talk at the Royce Conference of University of Alberta was on behavioral types/syndromes or 'characters' such as boldness, exploration, aggression, etc. Behavioral syndromes are characterized by repeated behavioral patterns in similar situations, i.e., consistent behavioral patterns over time where different behavioral options exist. Her research addresses the question of whether behavioral syndromes can be found in her model system, the Convict Cichlid. To this end she studies exploration, and the response to 'Schreckstoff' - the pheromone that makes fish show various predator responses (hence the title "Shrexploration"). She found that bold and exploratory individuals were bold and exploratory in different contexts and situations, suggesting that stable behavioral syndromes exist in these animals. This raises the interesting possibility that cichlid fish populations are made up of subpopulations covering the entire spectrum of bold vs. timid behaviors by individual differences that appear to be constant over time and situations. This is consistent with studies in other fish and indeed with many other, also terrestrial species. This field of research suggests that there seems to be an evolutionary strategy for populations to maximize their exploration/exploitation balance using individual differences rather than intra-individual variability in behavior.
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