Personality is the result of nurture, not nature, suggests new study on birds

Jun 04, 2013
Environmental effects are more important than genetic effects in explaining variation in personality in zebra finches. Credit: Jan Stipala

Researchers at the University of Exeter and the University of Hamburg investigated how personality is transferred between generations. They found that foster parents have a greater influence on the personalities of fostered offspring than the genes inherited from birth parents.

Dr Nick Royle from the University of Exeter said: "This is one of the first experiments to show that behaviour can be non-genetically transmitted from parents to offspring. Our study shows that in zebra finches, personality traits can be transmitted from one generation to another through behaviour not just genetics."

The research, published in the journal Biology Letters, measured personality by placing the zebra finches in a new environment and counting the number of features they visited. Some were shy, staying mainly in one place while others explored widely demonstrating a more outgoing personality. Male and were then paired up and allowed to breed. Each clutch of eggs was fostered by another pair just prior to hatching. Offspring personality was measured once they were adults. Offspring size was also measured and was found to be primarily genetically inherited and not significantly influenced by foster parent size.

Although this study considers personality inheritance in , it raises questions about the inheritance of personality in other species, including humans. Do adopted children inherit the of their birth parents or their adoptive parents? Is the environment more important than in the development of personality?

The results of this study indicate that non-genetic transmission of behaviour can play an important role in shaping animal personality. Further studies will build on this research to assess how widespread behavioural inheritance is for across other species.

Explore further: Rescued 'abandoned' penguin chicks survival similar to colony rates

More information: Environmental transmission of a personality trait: Foster parent exploration behaviour predicts offspring exploration behaviour in zebra finches, rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.or… .1098/rsbl.2013.0120

Related Stories

Fish win fights on strength of personality

Apr 26, 2013

When predicting the outcome of a fight, the big guy doesn't always win suggests new research on fish. Scientists at the University of Exeter and Texas A&M University found that when fish fight over food, ...

Opposites may attract, but they aren't better parents

Feb 01, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- A study by experts at the University of Exeter has revealed that couples with similar personalities make much better parents than those with different dispositions – at least in the world ...

Chimpanzees have five universal personality dimensions

Jun 03, 2013

While psychologists have long debated the core personality dimensions that define humanity, primate researchers have been working to uncover the defining personality traits for humankind's closest living ...

Recommended for you

Secret wing colours attract female fruit flies

20 hours ago

Bright colours appear on a fruit fly's transparent wings against a dark background as a result of light refraction. Researchers from Lund University in Sweden have now demonstrated that females choose a mate ...

Pigeons and people play the odds when rewards are higher

23 hours ago

(Phys.org) —If you were weighing the risks, would you choose to receive a guaranteed $100, or take a 50/50 chance of winning either $200 or nothing? Researchers at the University of Alberta have shown that ...

User comments : 0