Do personality and innovativeness influence competitive ability? An experimental test in the great tit

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Competitive ability is a major determinant of fitness, yet why individuals vary in their ability to compete for resources remains unclear. Rather than simply reflecting inherent differences in the ability of individuals to reach an assumed optimum behavior, empirical evidence suggests that competitive ability may also reflect alternative strategies that arise because of correlations with other behaviors, such as innovativeness and personality. We examined experimentally how 2 behavioral traits-exploration of a novel environment (an index of the reactive-proactive personality axis) and performance in a novel lever pulling task (a measure of innovativeness)-were related to the outcomes of dyadic contests involving wild-caught great tits. Dyads were then allowed to compete freely at a feeder before being exposed to a novel string-pulling task. Although we found no significant relationship between exploration behavior or innovativeness in isolation and competitiveness, individuals that were less competitive were more likely to spontaneously perform the string-pulling behavior during the dyadic trials, the first direct experimental demonstration of competitive exclusion leading to innovation. Our results support the hypothesis that innovations provide a means for less competitive individuals to access resources in line with the "necessity drives innovation hypothesis", and we discuss the functional significance of innovative behaviors in wild populations.




O’Shea, W., Serrano-Davies, E., & Quinn, J. L. (2017). Do personality and innovativeness influence competitive ability? An experimental test in the great tit. Behavioral Ecology, 28(6), 1435–1444.

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