Habitat stability, predation risk and 'memory syndromes'

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Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Article number10538
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2015
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Habitat stability and predation pressure are thought to be major drivers in the evolutionary maintenance of behavioural syndromes, with trait covariance only occurring within specific habitats. However, animals also exhibit behavioural plasticity, often through memory formation. Memory formation across traits may be linked, with covariance in memory traits (memory syndromes) selected under particular environmental conditions. This study tests whether the pond snail, Lymnaea stagnalis, demonstrates consistency among memory traits ('memory syndrome') related to threat avoidance and foraging. We used eight populations originating from three different habitat types: i) laboratory populations (stable habitat, predator-free); ii) river populations (fairly stable habitat, fish predation); and iii) ditch populations (unstable habitat, invertebrate predation). At a population level, there was a negative relationship between memories related to threat avoidance and food selectivity, but no consistency within habitat type. At an individual level, covariance between memory traits was dependent on habitat. Laboratory populations showed no covariance among memory traits, whereas river populations showed a positive correlation between food memories, and ditch populations demonstrated a negative relationship between threat memory and food memories. Therefore, selection pressures among habitats appear to act independently on memory trait covariation at an individual level and the average response within a population.