Personality-dependent dispersal: characterization, ontogeny and consequences for spatially structured populations

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2010 Dec 27;365(1560):4065-76. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2010.0176.


Dispersal is one of the most fundamental components of ecology, and affects processes as diverse as population growth, metapopulation dynamics, gene flow and adaptation. Although the act of moving from one habitat to another entails major costs to the disperser, empirical and theoretical studies suggest that these costs can be reduced by having morphological, physiological or behavioural specializations for dispersal. A few recent studies on different systems showed that individuals exhibit personality-dependent dispersal, meaning that dispersal tendency is associated with boldness, sociability or aggressiveness. Indeed, in several species, dispersers not only develop behavioural differences at the onset of dispersal, but display these behavioural characteristics through their life cycle. While personality-dependent dispersal has been demonstrated in only a few species, we believe that it is a widespread phenomenon with important ecological consequences. Here, we review the evidence for behavioural differences between dispersers and residents, to what extent they constitute personalities. We also examine how a link between personality traits and dispersal behaviours can be produced and how personality-dependent dispersal affects the dynamics of metapopulations and biological invasions. Finally, we suggest future research directions for population biologists, behavioural ecologists and conservation biologists such as how the direction and the strength of the relationship between personality traits and dispersal vary with ecological contexts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aggression
  • Animal Migration / physiology
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal* / physiology
  • Behavioral Research
  • Ecological and Environmental Phenomena
  • Exploratory Behavior
  • Female
  • Life Cycle Stages
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Psychological
  • Motor Activity
  • Personality* / genetics
  • Personality* / physiology
  • Phenotype
  • Population Dynamics
  • Social Behavior