New publication by Dr Chrissy Stanley on personality in cockroaches!

Posted on 10th May 2017

Dr Chrissy Stanley from our department has just published a new research paper in the journal PLOS ONE with collaborators Dr Claudia Mettke-Hofmann (Liverpool John Moores University) and Prof Richard Preziosi (Manchester Metropolitan University). This study showed that certain personality traits are not only measurable in cockroaches, but can also persist across discrete life stages (from juvenile stages to adulthood). Have a look at the featured news article on this paper and read on to find out more! 

The idea that even insects can show variation in personality may sound a little far-fetched, but numerous studies across a range of species have now demonstrated that individuals can differ consistently in their responses to certain situations. From firebugs to honeybees, traits such as boldness and novelty-seeking have been shown to exist and have been quantified by scientists in controlled tests. However, we still do not fully understand why personality variation is beneficial in animals. Whilst high levels of boldness, for example, may be useful in terms of within-species competition for mates or food, this may have negative consequences in other situations such as encounters with predators. By determining when personality becomes “fixed” in individuals over their lifetimes, we can improve our understanding of why it confers benefits strong enough to be favoured by natural selection. If it remains the same across distinct developmental stages, there must be clear advantages to this.

This study was part of Chrissy’s PhD work at the University of Manchester. Although the focus of her project was social networks in semiferal ponies, she jumped at the chance to carry out additional work with cockroaches. In her own words: “Animal personality is a subject that has always fascinated me and as this is a specialism of my external supervisor, Dr Claudia Mettke-Hofmann, this topic seemed a natural choice. I’ve had a soft spot for these creatures since working with them at my local zoo during a school work experience placement. Cockroaches are often given a bad press; perhaps the fact they show distinct personality traits will slightly improve their public image!”