Individual- and condition-dependent effects on habitat choice and choosiness

Jonathan N. Pruitt, Nicholas DiRienzo, Simona Kralj-Fišer, James Johnson, Andrew Sih

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Research on consistent individual differences in behavior, or "behavioral syndromes", continues to grow rapidly, and yet, the aspects of behavior under consideration have remained remarkably limited. Here, we consider individual variation in consistency of choice (termed here "choosiness"), as expressed during habitat choice. We repeatedly tested the responses of female Western Black Widows, Latrodectus hesperus, to two cues of habitat quality: prey chemical cues and variation in web site illuminance. We estimated females' response by the distance they positioned themselves from (1) the source of prey chemical cues and (2) the darkest edge of our test arena. Individuals with low variance in their responses are deemed more "choosy", whereas individuals with high variance are deemed less "choosy". Generally, most females initiated web construction near the source of the prey chemical cues and tended to place themselves in low-light conditions. However, we detected strong, repeatable differences in females' intensity of response, and within-individual variance of response (i.e., choosiness) was correlated across situations: females with highly consistent responses towards cricket chemical cues also exhibited highly consistent responses towards variation in light conditions. When deprived of food for extended periods, females were indistinguishable in their responses towards prey chemical cues, but tended to initiate web construction in brighter lighting conditions. Food-deprived females universally exhibited higher variance and diminished consistency in their responses (i.e., they were less choosy). Additionally, higher choosiness was associated with greater mass loss during choice trials, suggesting choosiness is energetically costly. Our results demonstrate that consistency of response to environmental cues is yet another element of behavior that varies among individuals and variation in choosiness could beget speed/quality trade-offs during animal decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1987-1995
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2011


  • Aggression
  • Choice experiment
  • Habitat selection
  • Rapid environmental change
  • Theridiidae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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