Do Fish Have Personalities? – Midcurrent

Do Fish Have Personalities? – Midcurrent

by Simon Blanford
“In humans there is a well-described range of behaviors called the shy-bold continuum. At one end are those who are painfully shy, timid and careful introverts. At the other end there are bold, inquisitive, risk-taking extroverts. Between the two are people who lean slightly more to one end of this behavioral spectrum than the other. And then there are those strange, well-balanced folk found firmly in the middle. The shy-bold axis is one of our most fundamental categories of personality. The study on pumpkinseeds demonstrates that fish too can be categorized in this way: there really are shy fish and bold fish swimming in our lakes, rivers and seas. So, that being the case, quod erat demonstrandum as it were, fish must also have personalities.

Except, wait…. fish have personalities?  People have ‘personalities’ yes (it’s in the word after all) but not fish. And so here lies something of a conundrum. Although some biologists have pointed out that individual behavioral variation might be important, modern ecology has largely ignored the issue when attempting to describe and model how an animal should behave to optimize its chance of surviving and reproducing. An animal behaving outside this optimum was seen as being a bit wonky, maladapted, an individual to be left out of serious descriptions of the general best behavioral practice.”
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Photo by Kyle Zempel