Personality differences explain leadership in barnacle geese

R.H.J.M. Kurvers, B. Eijkelenkamp, K. Van Oers, B. van Lith, S.E. van Wieren, R.C. Ydenberg, H.H.T. Prins

    Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

    136 Citations (Scopus)


    Personality in animal behaviour describes the observation that behavioural differences between individuals are consistent over time and context. Studies of group-living animals show that movement order among individuals is also consistent over time and context, suggesting that some individuals lead and others follow. However, the relationship between leadership and personality traits is poorly studied. We measured several personality traits and leadership of individual barnacle geese, Branta leucopsis. We measured body size and scored the dominance of individuals living in a stable group situation before subjecting them to an open-field test, an activity test, a novel-object test, and a leadership test in which the order of the movement of individuals in pairs towards a feeding patch was scored. We found high repeatability for activity and novel-object scores over time. Leadership was strongly correlated with novel-object score but not with dominance rank, activity or exploration in an open field. These results provide evidence that leadership is closely related to some aspects of personality. Interestingly, an individual's arrival at the food patch was affected not only by the novel-object score of the focal individual, but also by the novel-object score of the companion individual, indicating that movement patterns of individuals living in groups are affected by the personality traits of other group members and suggesting that movement patterns of a group may be shaped by the mix of personality types present in the group.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)447-453
    JournalAnimal Behaviour
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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