Dietary carotenoids affect the development of individual differences and behavioral plasticity
Nutritional conditions experienced during development are expected to play a key role in shaping an individual's behavioral phenotype. The long term, irreversible effects of nutritional conditions on behavioral variation among and within individuals remains largely unexplored. This study aimed to investigate how long-term carotenoid availability (representing low vs. high quality nutritional conditions) during both larval and adult life stages influences the expression of among-individual variation (animal personality) and within-individual variation (behavioral plasticity). We tested for personality and plasticity along the exploration/avoidance behavioral axis in the Southern Corroboree frog (Pseudophryne corroboree). We predicted that treatment groups receiving carotenoids during early development would be more exploratory and have greater among- and within-individual variation compared with individuals that did not receive carotenoids (i.e., silver spoon hypothesis). Superior nutritional conditions experienced during development are expected to provide individuals with resources needed to develop costly behaviors, giving them an advantage later in life irrespective of prevailing conditions. Unexpectedly, frogs that did not receive carotenoids as larvae expressed greater among-individual variance in exploration behavior. Additionally, frogs that did not receive carotenoids at either life stage displayed greater within-individual variance. Our findings provide no support for the silver spoon hypothesis but suggest that inconsistent nutritional conditions between life stages may adversely affect the development of behavioral phenotypes. Overall, our results indicate that early and late life nutritional conditions affect the development of personality and plasticity. They also highlight that nutritional effects on behavior may be more complex than previously theorized.