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Title: Cognition, individual behaviour and sensory systems in fish
Author: Kareklas, Kyriacos
ISNI:       0000 0004 6424 6130
Awarding Body: Queen's University Belfast
Current Institution: Queen's University Belfast
Date of Award: 2017
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This work explores the role of animal personality differences in the interaction between sensing, behaviour and cognition. Typically, animal personality is characterised by patterns of consistency in levels of individual behaviour. In a study of the weakly-electric fish Gnathonemus petersii, otherwise consistent boldness levels are revealed as changeable when fish are in safer conditions. Interestingly, the changes were greater for timid than bold personalities, which implicates individual behavioural-plasticity levels in the expression of personality. Further investigations of the spatial learning of G. petersii confirm that bolder fish decide faster and are also more accurate in choosing a rewarded place, which enables faster learning. The behavioural and cognitive differences between personalities can be linked to neurosensory mechanisms. This was illustrated by investigating asymmetries in sensory input to the brain of G. petersii. Consistent with their behavioural tendency, shier animals were strongly asymmetric towards the left hemisphere, which controls response. Conversely, bolder animals were more strongly asymmetric towards the right hemisphere, which promotes rapid response. In order to identify the extent to which these personality-based individual differences influence social behaviour, the work further regards how the differences between individuals affect the collective functions of groups. The collective behaviour and learning performance of zebrafish Danio rerio did not reflect intra-group personality levels. However, group behaviour was similar to the average of individual behaviour and groups with greater intra-group variance in boldness took longer to reach collective decisions by dispersing. Overall, the work highlights the diverse influence of individual variation and illustrates the usefulness of integrative research in examining this. The findings have important implications for the ecology of wild fish populations, the neurocognitive mechanisms of behaviour and the effect of personality on the survival strategies of vertebrates.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available