Washington, Oct 14 : It's not just humans who have personalities that distinguish them from their friends and family, for the animal kingdom too follows the same path, says a new research.
In the new study, Franz Weissing of the University of Groningen has used mathematical model to explain how and why such animal temperaments develop over time.
The model will also elucidate as to why certain individuals are more rigid or flexible than others, and why some change their behaviour in response to changes in their environment unlike others.
The bottomline, according to Weissing, is costs and benefits. His model shows that a group with both rigid and flexible personality types co-exist makes for an optimal system.
His team tried various model simulations of scenarios that included a resource as well as responsive and unresponsive animals.
He said the new model shows, for example, when it's optimal for animals to react to a change in food and when it's not. And it was found that competing personalities make up for a healthy balance in a group.
Giving example of a duck pond, Weissing said that if they scattered twice as much food along the right side of the pond, leaving the left side sparse, the ducks would get used to find their food at the right side.
But if one day more food was made available on the left side of the pond, leaving the right with a dearth, some ducks, which also check out the left side, would swim to the food on the left. However, the other ducks will stick to their routine and continue to survive on the little bit of food still on the right side. The responsive ducks benefit from their quick move to the big pile of food, while the unresponsive ducks could starve, or at the very least, not get a bellyful.
But the results would be completely different if too many ducks were to respond and head over to the left side of the pond. Thus, the competition on that side of the pond would be high and will leave some of the smart ducks practically starved.
However, this scenario would benefit the unresponsive ducks, because while they would be left with a smaller portion of food, there would be hardly any competition for it.
Responsiveness could also be a waste of energy in some of the model simulations- if the food never moves to the other side of the pond, the proactive ducks could just exhaust themselves without any gain.
In the end, a balance between ducks that scan for change and ducks that stick with the routine would benefit the overall population.
Animal personalities have a tendency to persist, says researchers, for individuals who are responsive gain experience, thus making them avoid such behaviour in the future.
"Individuals that have been responsive before have a slight advantage in collecting or interpreting environmental cues. This is a plausible assumption, since the performance of individuals generally improves with the experience they have," Live Science quoted Weissing as saying. Similar personality types also exist in humans.
The research is published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.