The role of personality on spatial behaviour in merino sheep (Ovis aries)
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 11:35 authored by Molly E. Gilmour
Animal personality research has yielded personality-dependent spatial behaviours in many species. However, much of this research is focused on dispersal and foraging patterns. This ignores many other aspects of animal spatial behaviour, such as movement patterns, that occur on a daily basis. Our research investigates travel distances and patterns of paddock exploration in merino sheep to determine if they are influenced by personality traits. We combined assays of two traits, boldness and exploration, quantified in captivity, with high resolution GPS data of freeranging sheep over three months. We found evidence for boldness and exploration tendency as personality traits, but did not find inter-individual repeatability in distance travelled per day or time taken to explore 3km2. Consequently, we found no personality-dependent space use in merino ewes. This expands our understanding of what influences space use in gregarious species, like sheep, and suggest a stronger role of external environment on movement rather than personality.