Boldness correlates with the mating success, but not body size or sex, of yellow-spotted monitor lizards roaming the remote Oombulgurri floodplains of tropical Western Australia, ecologists report in the Ecological Society of America’s open access journal Ecosphere. But boldness has a cost: bold individuals expose themselves to much higher risk of being eaten by predators during the dangerous wet season. The researchers demonstrated quantifiable behavioral syndromes in the large lizards, with an intriguing relationship to the lizards’ seasonal hunting strategies.
“Personality is kind of interchangeable with the term behavioral syndrome. Some scientists have a weird thing about saying “personality”; they don’t like to think animals have personalities. But they definitely do,” said lead author Georgia Ward-Fear, a researcher at the University of Sydney. Boldness, she and her coauthors found, was not conveyed by imposing stature. “There are bold females as well as bold males, and shy females as well as shy males. Some of the biggest individuals we observed were really shy.”