1. Individuals of the same species often exhibit consistent differences in metabolic rate, but the effects of such differences on ecologically important behaviours remain largely unknown. In particular, it is unclear whether there is a cause-and-effect relationship between metabolic rate and the tendency to take risks while foraging. Individuals with higher metabolic rates may need to take greater risks while foraging to obtain the additional food required to satisfy their energy requirements. Such a relationship could be exacerbated by food deprivation if a higher metabolic demand also causes greater mass loss and hunger. 2. We investigated relationships among metabolic rate, risk-taking and tolerance of food deprivation in juvenile European sea bass. Individual fish were tested for risk-taking behaviours following a simulated predator attack, both before and after a 7-day period of food deprivation. The results were then related to their routine metabolic rate (RMR), which was measured throughout the period of food deprivation. 3. The amount of risk displayed by individual fish before food deprivation showed no relationship with RMR. After food deprivation, however, the amount of risk among individuals was positively correlated with RMR. In general, most fish showed an increase in risk-taking after food deprivation, and the magnitude of the increase in risk-taking was correlated with the rate of individual mass loss during food deprivation, which was itself strongly correlated with RMR. 4. The observation that RMR was related to risk-taking behaviour after food deprivation, but not before, suggests that although RMR can influence risk-taking, the strength of the relationship is flexible and context dependent. The effects of RMR on risk-taking may be subtle or non-existent in regularly feeding animals, but may lead to variability in risk-taking among individuals when food is scarce or supply is unpredictable. This synergistic relationship between RMR and food deprivation could lead to an increased likelihood of being predated for individuals with a relatively high intrinsic energy demand during times when food is scarce.
© 2011 The Authors. Journal of Animal Ecology © 2011 British Ecological Society.