Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Do animal personalities emerge?


Arising from: M. Wolf, G. S. van Doorn, O. Leimar & F. J. Weissing Nature 447, 581–584 (2007)10.1038/nature05835; Wolf et al. reply

The evolution of animal personalities is a topic of primary importance in behavioural ecology. An intriguing empirical fact is the consistency of animal responses to repeated stresses or threats. Wolf et al. propose an evolutionary model to explain the emergence of consistent personalities1. They show that a population dimorphism for an exploration trait implies the existence of behavioural syndromes, such as decreased aggressiveness and the boldness of ‘thorough explorers’. This finding helps explain how animal responses can be consistent, despite the seeming advantages of flexible responses. However, we contend that the emergence of a dimorphism depends critically on the intensity of the trade-off between exploration investment and first-year fecundity.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: Pairwise invasibility plots.


  1. Wolf, M., van Doorn, G. S., Leimar, O. & Weissing, F. J. Life-history trade-offs favour the evolution of animal personalities. Nature 447, 581–584 (2007)

    Article  CAS  ADS  Google Scholar 

  2. Bishop, D. T. & Cannings, C. Models of animal conflict. Adv. Appl. Prob. 8, 616–621 (1976)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Hofbauer, J. & Sigmund, K. Adaptive dynamics and evolutionary stability. Appl. Math. Lett. 3, 75–79 (1990)

    Article  MathSciNet  Google Scholar 

  4. Nowak, M. & Sigmund, K. The evolution of stochastic strategies in the prisoner's dilemma. Acta Appl. Math. 20, 247–265 (1990)

    Article  MathSciNet  Google Scholar 

  5. Dieckmann, U. & Doebeli, M. On the origin of species by sympatric speciation. Nature 400, 354–357 (1999)

    Article  CAS  ADS  Google Scholar 

  6. Dieckmann, U. & Law, R. The dynamical theory of coevolution: A derivation from stochastic ecological processes. J. Math. Biol. 34, 579–612 (1996)

    Article  MathSciNet  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Geritz, S. A. H., Kisdi, E., Meszena, G. & Metz, J. A. J. Evolutionarily singular strategies and the adaptive growth and branching of the evolutionary tree. Evol. Ecol. 12, 35–57 (1998)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Geritz, S. A. H., van der Meijden, E. & Metz, J. A. J. Evolutionary dynamics of seed size and seedling competitive ability. Theor. Popul. Biol. 55, 324–343 (1999)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Waxman, D. & Gavrilets, S. 20 questions on adaptive dynamics. J. Evol. Biol. 18, 1139–1154 (2005)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Maynard Smith, J. Evolutionary Genetics Ch. 4 (Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, 1989)

    Google Scholar 

  11. Slatkin, M. Ecological character displacement. Ecology 61, 163–177 (1980)

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Massol, F., Crochet, PA. Do animal personalities emerge?. Nature 451, E8–E9 (2008).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing