Believe it or not, study finds even fish have personalities
Tom Spears
CanWest News Service

November 26, 2007

OTTAWA -- Fish have personalities. Ordinary Canadian brook trout exhibit different traits: some social, others not. Some risk-takers, others scaredy-fish. And so on.

University of Guelph scientists noticed the different personalities as they sat by the Credit River, west of Toronto, watching trout feed. Then they scooped out the fish and ran them through six days of personality tests in the lab, and even some swimming tests.

And the revelation suggests an answer to an old question: How can different species, with different types of behaviour, evolve from a single starting point?

The idea of personalities is starting to spread across our views of the whole animal kingdom, says Rob McLaughlin, the Guelph biologist who ran the study.

McLaughlin and student Alex Wilson found that the personalities stayed distinct even after the young fish, still just two to four centimetres long, left their natural homes.

For instance, he put the fish in a dark tube in the aquarium.

The more active fish were always the ones that emerged into the main body of the tank first. They were more ready to take risks, and less afraid of unfamiliar objects in the water.

"What they do in the field predicts what they do in the lab," he said.

"We were getting this sense that they perceive the environment differently, and the kind of things we measured are part of what people are starting to call personality traits in animals."

© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007

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