Personality and urbanization: behavioural traits and DRD4 SNP830 polymorphisms in great tits in Barcelona city

Abstract

Most examples of adaptation to the urban environment relate to plasticity processes rather than to natural selection. Personality, however, defined as consistent individual differences in behaviour related to exploration, caution, and neophobia, is a good behavioural candidate character to study natural selection in relation to the urban habitat due to its heritable variation. The aim of this paper was to analyse variation in personality by comparing urban and forest great tits Parus major using standard tests of exploratory behaviour and boldness. We studied personality in 130 wild great tits captured in Barcelona city and nearby forests and found that urban birds were more explorative and bolder towards a novel object than forest birds. Genotype frequencies of the DRD4 SNP830 polymorphism, a gene region often associated with personality variation, varied significantly between forest and urban birds. Behavioural scores, however, were not correlated with this polymorphism in our population. Exploration scores correlated to boldness for forest birds but not for urban birds. Our findings suggest that the novel selection pressures of the urban environment favour the decoupling of behavioural traits that commonly form behavioural syndromes in the wild.

DOI: 10.1007/s10164-016-0496-2

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