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Benhaïm, D., Ferrari, S., Chatain, B., & Bégout, M. - L. (2016). The shy prefer familiar congeners. Behavioural Processes, 126, 113–120.
Résumé: The shy–bold continuum is both a fundamental aspect of human behavior and a relatively stable behavioral trait for many other species. Here we assessed whether shy individuals prefer familiar congeners, taking the European sea bass, a recently domesticated fish showing similar behavioral responses to wild fish, as a model to better understand the inter-individual variability in social behavior previously observed in this species. In the wild, the link between familiarity i.e. the preference of fish for familiar congeners and boldness could be part of the mechanism underlying shoaling formation in fish. Thirty fish were individually tested in a device designed to assess the preference for a familiar vs. an unfamiliar congener on the basis of visual cues only. An open field test (OFT) with shelter was performed on the same fish 32 days later to assess the boldness of each individual. Variables of interest included the proportion of time spent in the shelter, border and center zone of the arena and variables of activity. Variables measured in OFT were collapsed into first principal component scores using Principal Components Analysis (PCA) which allowed characterizing a shy-bold continuum. Time spent near the familiar congener was negatively correlated with boldness i.e. shy individuals spent most of the time near the familiar congener. We discuss the relevance of these findings to the understanding of the behavior of European sea bass and suggest that the link between familiarity and shyness is a general aspect of both animal and human behavior.