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Rachel Gunn

Impact of coral reef fish personalities on species persistence under environmental change

Ongoing at Lancaster

Coral reefs are undergoing substantial change around the world as mass coral bleaching and other disturbance events disrupt ecological communities. Animal behaviour is thought to be a crucial mechanism underlying this disruption, which could shape the potential for species to cope with on-going environmental change, yet our understanding of these links is in its infancy. One particularly interesting aspect of behaviour is personality, whereby individuals display distinct, repeatable suites of behaviours. Certain personalities could provide a selective advantage under environmental change e.g., bold and explorative individuals might have increased potential to exploit novel conditions. This project aims to explore the relationship between personality traits of individual butterflyfishes (Chaetodon spp.), and their influence on population persistence under changing environmental conditions. Butterflyfishes are iconic reef fish that are particularly susceptible to environmental change because they depend directly on corals as food. Specifically, I will be working in Hoga addressing the variability of personality amongst individuals, within and across reefs. I am also interested in how variation in personality is related to habitat complexity and whether individuals on reefs that have recently undergone a mass coral mortality event display bolder, more exploratory individuals. I will be working with Operation Wallacea on Hoga from the 2019 season.

Wallace House, Old Bolingbroke, Spilsby, Lincolnshire PE23 4EX, UK
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