Sex-dependent personality in two invasive species of mosquitofish

Marcus Michelangeli, Julien Cote, David G. Chapple, Andrew Sih, Tomas Brodin, Sean Fogarty, Michael G. Bertram, Jack Eades, Bob B.M. Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


A key challenge in invasion biology is identifying characteristics that allow some species to be repeatedly successful at invading novel environments. Invasions can often be disproportionately driven by a single sex, with differences in behavioural mechanisms between the sexes potentially underlying sex-biased invasiveness. Here, we took an animal personality approach to study the behaviour of two repeatedly successful congeneric invasive species, the western mosquitofish, Gambusia affinis, and the eastern mosquitofish, Gambusia holbrooki. In each species, we investigated whether males and females shared common personality traits (i.e. behavioural types and behavioural syndromes), with the aim of identifying possible behavioural mechanisms that could help explain why mosquitofish invasions are often characterised by sex-biased founder populations. We found sex-dependent personality, although sex differences varied between species. Male G. affinis were bolder and less social than female G. affinis, whereas we found no behavioural type differences between the sexes in G. holbrooki. We also found a consistent correlation between boldness and exploration in both sexes within G. affinis, but this correlation was weak in G. holbrooki. Finally, exploration was also correlated with sociability in male G. affinis, but not in females. Our results suggest that behavioural tendencies may diverge, both among species and between the sexes, because of adaptation experienced during different invasion pathways. Broadly, identifying the behavioural mechanisms that predict an individual’s ‘invasiveness’ may be difficult to tease apart between species because each invasion is characterised by different abiotic and biotic interactions that likely require different suites of behaviours. Future studies are needed to elucidate whether, in fact, personality variation between the sexes can mediate the occurrence of sex-biased invasions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1353–1364
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Invasions
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020


  • Animal personalities
  • Individual variation
  • Invasion process
  • Invasion syndrome
  • Life-history
  • Risk-taking
  • Sex differences
  • Sex ratio

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