Can individual differences in strategies for managing uncertainty generate individual differences in behavioural plasticity?
Within populations, individuals often differ dramatically in their degree of behavioural plasticity. Given the obvious potential advantages of being able to adjust one’s behaviour to current conditions, understanding why variation in behavioural plasticity exists is challenging, and is a major area of interest in behavioural and evolutionary ecology. My research is aimed at testing the hypothesis that individual differences in behavioural plasticity result from underlying variation in how individual manage environmental uncertainty. For example, individuals can invest in sampling behaviour to reduce uncertainty, or in insurance to mitigate the potential consequences of uncertainty (for example, maintaining fat stores as insurance against unpredictably occurring poor foraging conditions). I use both field and lab experiments to investigate proximate causes of individual differences in the use of these alternative tactics (such as variation in energetic requirements) and the consequences of such individual differences in tactic use on behavioural plasticity.