Fighting and personality

Dr Mark Briffa and masters student Fabian Rudin, have studied the links between boldness and fighting ability in the common sea anemone, Actinia equina.

Personality and aggressive behaviour are shown by a vast array of animals, including sea anemones. Individual beadlet sea anemones show differences in startle responses when disturbed. Weapon size and large body size influence the chance of winning a fight and here we investigated whether their personality would also influence their chance of winning. Bold individuals landed more blows on their opponent and therefore won more fights. After fights, the losers became shyer and the behavioural differences between losers disappeared. These post-fight ‘personality changes’ may help to explain ‘winner and loser’ effects on subsequent fighting success.

This research was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B (May 2012).

Fighting and personality research

Watch a video of one of the staged fights