Abstract

Mated pair bonds are integral to many animal societies, yet how individual variation in behaviour influences their formation remains largely unknown. In a population of wild great tits (Parus major), we show that personality shapes pair bonding: proactive males formed stronger pre-breeding pair bonds by meeting their future partners sooner and increasing their relationship strength at a faster rate. As a result, proactive males sampled fewer potential mates. Thus, personality may have important implications for social relationship dynamics and emergent social structure.

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Acknowledgements

We are particularly grateful to the Social Network Group of the Edward Grey Institute, Oxford University, for assistance with fieldwork and help with captive birds. This work was funded by an Edward Grey Institute Research Fellowship and Merton College Junior Research Fellowship to J.A.F., and an ERC grant to B.C.S. (AdG 250164). J.L.Q. was supported by the ERC (Horizon 2020 FP7/2007-2013 and Consolidator 617509 grants).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Edward Grey Institute, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

    • Josh A. Firth
    • , Ella F. Cole
    • , Lucy M. Aplin
    • , Antica Culina
    • , Keith McMahon
    •  & Ben C. Sheldon
  2. Merton College, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

    • Josh A. Firth
  3. School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

    • Christos C. Ioannou
  4. School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

    • John L. Quinn
  5. Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Radolfzell, Germany

    • Lucy M. Aplin
  6. Netherlands Institute of Ecology, Wageningen, the Netherlands

    • Antica Culina

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Contributions

J.A.F. conceived the study, carried out the analysis and wrote the first draft. J.A.F., E.F.C., C.C.I., J.L.Q. and B.C.S. interpreted the data and planned the draft. J.A.F., E.F.C., L.M.A., A.C. and K.M. collected the data. All authors contributed significantly to revising the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Josh A. Firth.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Figures 1-6, Supplementary Tables 1-6, Supplementary Methods, Supplementary References

  2. Reporting Summary

  3. Supplementary Data

    A .RData file containing the data used in the manuscript and

  4. Supplementary Note

    A README file describing the Supplementary data format

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-018-0670-8