Consistent after all: behavioural repeatability in a long-lived lizard across a 6-year field study

E. Payne, D. L. Sinn, O. Spiegel, S. T. Leu, M. G. Gardner, S. S. Godfrey, C. Wohlfeil, A. Sih

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Despite growing attention to the ecological and evolutionary importance of consistent individual differences in behaviour (animal personality), long-term field studies quantifying factors associated with behavioural repeatability remain rare. Here, we studied animal personalities over an 8-year period, representing 6 study years, in a wild population of the long-lived sleepy lizard, Tiliqua rugosa. Using Bayesian generalized linear mixed models for 170 unique individuals and a total of 379 lizard-years, we (1) considered the effects of a suite of predictors – particularly lizard sex, mass and tick counts – on lizard aggression and boldness (2) assessed repeatability (i.e. consistent differences among individuals), of these behaviours over different timescales and between lizard sexes and (3) evaluated the correlation, or behavioural syndrome, between aggression and boldness. We found that males were marginally more aggressive and bolder than females, mass had no significant effect and tick loads exhibited a positive relationship with aggression and boldness. For repeatability, we found that even with the long timescales considered in this study, aggression and boldness were both repeatable – across the entire data set (∼0.4 and ∼0.3, respectively) using all lizards, as well as among years (∼0.4 and ∼0.4, respectively) using lizards observed in multiple years (93 for aggression, 73 for boldness). Repeatability did not differ substantially between the sexes. We found no syndrome between aggression and boldness – despite a weak positive correlation in multivariate mixed models, the 95% credible interval for this correlation included zero. Our results are notable because they demonstrate that wild animals may exhibit consistent personality differences in ecologically relevant behaviours over extended periods even in the face of substantial temporal variation in ecological and social factors, a fact that has likely ecological and evolutionary consequences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-277
Number of pages15
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • behavioural type
  • consistent individual differences
  • coping style
  • life history trait
  • long-term ecological research (LTER)
  • multivariate modelling
  • sex difference
  • temperament


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