A warmer environment can reduce sociability in an ectotherm

Pilakouta, N. et al. (2023) A warmer environment can reduce sociability in an ectotherm. Global Change Biology, 29(1), pp. 206-214. (doi: 10.1111/gcb.16451) (PMID:36259414)

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The costs and benefits of being social vary with environmental conditions, so individuals must weigh the balance between these trade-offs in response to changes in the environment. Temperature is a salient environmental factor that may play a key role in altering the costs and benefits of sociality through its effects on food availability, predator abundance, and other ecological parameters. In ectotherms, changes in temperature also have direct effects on physiological traits linked to social behaviour, such as metabolic rate and locomotor performance. In light of climate change, it is therefore important to understand the potential effects of temperature on sociality. Here, we took the advantage of a ‘natural experiment’ of threespine sticklebacks from contrasting thermal environments in Iceland: geothermally warmed water bodies (warm habitats) and adjacent ambient-temperature water bodies (cold habitats) that were either linked (sympatric) or physically distinct (allopatric). We first measured the sociability of wild-caught adult fish from warm and cold habitats after acclimation to a low and a high temperature. At both acclimation temperatures, fish from the allopatric warm habitat were less social than those from the allopatric cold habitat, whereas fish from sympatric warm and cold habitats showed no differences in sociability. To determine whether differences in sociability between thermal habitats in the allopatric population were heritable, we used a common garden breeding design where individuals from the warm and the cold habitat were reared at a low or high temperature for two generations. We found that sociability was indeed heritable but also influenced by rearing temperature, suggesting that thermal conditions during early life can play an important role in influencing social behaviour in adulthood. By providing the first evidence for a causal effect of rearing temperature on social behaviour, our study provides novel insights into how a warming world may influence sociality in animal populations.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:Funding information H2020 European Research Council, Grant/Award Number: 640004; Natural Environment Research Council, Grant/ Award Number: NE/J019100/1 and NE/ N016734/1; Wellcome Trust, Grant/ Award Number: Institutional Strategic Support Fund.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Pilakouta, Dr Natalie and Lindstrom, Dr Jan and O'Donnell, Professor Patrick and Killen, Professor Shaun and Humble, Joseph and Crespel, Dr Amelie and Metcalfe, Professor Neil and Parsons, Dr Kevin
Authors: Pilakouta, N., O'Donnell, P., Crespel, A., Levet, M., Claireaux, M., Humble, J. L., Kristjánsson, B. K., Skúlason, S., Lindström, J., Metcalfe, N. B., Killen, S. S., and Parsons, K. J.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Global Change Biology
ISSN (Online):1365-2486
Published Online:19 October 2022
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2022 The Authors
First Published:First published in Global Change Biology 29(1): 206-214
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons license

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
167015The Influence of Individual Physiology on Group Behaviour in Fish SchoolsShaun KillenNatural Environment Research Council (NERC)NE/J019100/1Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
172724The predictability and limits of evolution to increased temperature: insights from a natural 'experiment'Kevin ParsonsNatural Environment Research Council (NERC)NE/N016734/1Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine