What's your move? Movement as a link between personality and spatial dynamics in animal populations

Orr Spiegel*, Stephan T. Leu, C. Michael Bull, Andrew Sih

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

270 Scopus citations


Recent studies have established the ecological and evolutionary importance of animal personalities. Individual differences in movement and space-use, fundamental to many personality traits (e.g. activity, boldness and exploratory behaviour) have been documented across many species and contexts, for instance personality-dependent dispersal syndromes. Yet, insights from the concurrently developing movement ecology paradigm are rarely considered and recent evidence for other personality-dependent movements and space-use lack a general unifying framework. We propose a conceptual framework for personality-dependent spatial ecology. We link expectations derived from the movement ecology paradigm with behavioural reaction-norms to offer specific predictions on the interactions between environmental factors, such as resource distribution or landscape structure, and intrinsic behavioural variation. We consider how environmental heterogeneity and individual consistency in movements that carry-over across spatial scales can lead to personality-dependent: (1) foraging search performance; (2) habitat preference; (3) home range utilization patterns; (4) social network structure and (5) emergence of assortative population structure with spatial clusters of personalities. We support our conceptual model with spatially explicit simulations of behavioural variation in space-use, demonstrating the emergence of complex population-level patterns from differences in simple individual-level behaviours. Consideration of consistent individual variation in space-use will facilitate mechanistic understanding of processes that drive social, spatial, ecological and evolutionary dynamics in heterogeneous environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-18
Number of pages16
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


FundersFunder number
National Science FoundationDEB-1456730
Australian Research Council


    • Animal personality
    • behavioural syndromes
    • fractal landscapes
    • home range
    • movement ecology
    • optimal foraging
    • population structure
    • search strategies
    • social networks
    • spatial ecology


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