Performance, personality, and energetics: correlation, causation, and mechanism

Physiol Biochem Zool. Nov-Dec 2012;85(6):543-71. doi: 10.1086/666970. Epub 2012 Oct 1.


The study of phenotypic evolution should be an integrative endeavor that combines different approaches and crosses disciplinary and phylogenetic boundaries to consider complex traits and organisms that historically have been studied in isolation from each other. Analyses of individual variation within populations can act to bridge studies focused at the levels of morphology, physiology, biochemistry, organismal performance, behavior, and life history. For example, the study of individual variation recently facilitated the integration of behavior into the concept of a pace-of-life syndrome and effectively linked the field of energetics with research on animal personality. Here, we illustrate how studies on the pace-of-life syndrome and the energetics of personality can be integrated within a physiology-performance-behavior-fitness paradigm that includes consideration of ecological context. We first introduce key concepts and definitions and then review the rapidly expanding literature on the links between energy metabolism and personality traits commonly studied in nonhuman animals (activity, exploration, boldness, aggressiveness, sociability). We highlight some empirical literature involving mammals and squamates that demonstrates how emerging fields can develop in rather disparate ways because of historical accidents and/or particularities of different kinds of organisms. We then briefly discuss potentially interesting avenues for future conceptual and empirical research in relation to motivation, intraindividual variation, and mechanisms underlying trait correlations. The integration of performance traits within the pace-of-life-syndrome concept has the potential to fill a logical gap between the context dependency of selection and how energetics and personality are expected to interrelate. Studies of how performance abilities and/or aspects of Darwinian fitness relate to both metabolic rate and personality traits are particularly lacking.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Genetic Fitness
  • Mammals / physiology*
  • Mammals / psychology*
  • Phenotype