The covariance between metabolic rate and behaviour varies across behaviours and thermal types: meta-analytic insights

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Kimberley Mathot, Niels J Dingemanse, Shinichi Nakagawa


Energy metabolism has received much attention as a potential driver of repeatable among-individual differences in behaviour (animal personality). Several factors have been hypothesized to mediate this relationship. We performed a meta-analysis of >70 studies comprised of >8000 individuals reporting relationships between measures of maintenance metabolic rates (i.e., basal metabolic rate, resting metabolic rate, and standard metabolic rate) and behaviour. We evaluated support for three hypothesized mediators: 1) type of behaviour, 2) opportunities for energy re-allocation, and 3) magnitude of energetic constraints. Relationships between measures of maintenance metabolic rate (MR) and behaviour are predicted to be strongest for behaviours with strong consequences for energy turnover (acquisition or expenditure). Consistent with this, we found that behaviours with known consequences for energy gain (e.g., foraging, dominance, boldness) or expenditure (e.g., maximum sprint speed, sustained running speed, maximum distance travelled, etc.) had strong positive correlations with MR, while behaviours with putatively weak and/or inconsistent associations with net energy gain or loss (e.g., exploration, activity, sociability) were not correlated with MR. Greater opportunities for energy reallocation are predicted to weaken relationships between MR and behaviour by creating alternative pathways to balance energy budgets . We tested this by contrasting relationships between MR and behaviour in ectotherms versus endotherms, as thermoregulation in endotherms creates additional opportunities for energy reallocation compared with ectotherms. As predicted, the relationship between behaviour and metabolic rate (MR) was stronger in ectotherms compared with endotherms. However, statistical analyses of heterogeneity among effect sizes from different species did not support energy re-allocation as the main driver of these differences. Finally, we tested whether conditions where animals face greater constraints in meeting their energy budgets (e.g., field versus lab, breeding versus non-breeding) increased the strength of relationship between MR and behaviour. We found that the relationship between MR and behaviour was unaffected by either of these modifiers. This meta-analysis provides two key insights. First, we observed positive relationships of similar magnitude between MR and behaviours that bring in net energy, and behaviours that cost net energy. This result is only consistent with a performance energy management model. Given that the studies included in our meta-analysis represent a wide range of taxa, this suggests that the performance model may be the most common model in general. Second, we found that behaviours with putatively weak or inconsistent consequences for net energy gain or expenditure (exploration, activity, sociability) show no relationship with MR. This provides the first systematic demonstration of the central importance of the ecological function of traits in mediating relationships between MR and behaviour.



Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Life Sciences, Physiology


among-individual differences, Animal personality, basal metabolic rate, energetic constraints, energy management strategy, resting metabolic rate, routine metabolic rate, standard metabolic rate


Published: 2019-01-14 03:48

Last Updated: 2019-03-05 05:37

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