Projects / Programmes source: ARIS


Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
1.03.01  Natural sciences and mathematics  Biology  Zoology and zoophysiology 

Code Science Field
B005  Biomedical sciences  Zoology 

Code Science Field
1.06  Natural Sciences  Biological sciences 
behavioral plasticity, developmental plasticity, invasive, personality, spider
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (1)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  28436  PhD Simona Kralj Fišer  Biology  Head  2011 - 2013  176 
Organisations (1)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0618  Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts  Ljubljana  5105498000  63,134 
Behavior is presumed to be plastic, so that an individual can maximally adapt its behavior to the given circumstances. Nevertheless, animals commonly exhibit limited behavioral plasticity, which is manifested in consistent inter-individual behavioral differences, referred to as personality differences. Personalities are moderately heritable and fitness relevant.   Limited behavioral plasticity is most decisive for species survival following major environmental changes, e.g. climatic change, urbanization or habitat fragmentation. Species with higher phenotypic plasticity are proposed to be more tolerant to environmental changes than those with less plastic traits, and may therefore dominate in disturbed areas. Some species thrive in urban environments, while others go locally extinct. The former are referred to as invasive species. Several studies have aimed to determine traits related to invasiveness, but few have investigated the impact of behavioral traits. Nevertheless, animals initially respond to a change behaviorally. Invasive species are generally competitively dominant due to inter-species aggressiveness and boldness. They disperse well; have high feeding and reproductive activities. While aggressiveness and boldness are advantageous in competitive conflicts with other species, they are disadvantageous in intra-specific encounters, in particular in high population densities. Recently, several studies have investigated how within species behavioral variation influences invasion dynamics. Presumably, a species responds well to environmental change if individuals are behaviorally flexible, if species has a wide range of personalities, and if most individuals exhibit a favorable behavioral type, so that at least a part of the population will respond appropriately to change. Environmental factors can affect the development of personality. For example, food availability and predator pressure influence individual behavior later in life. Species and individuals may differ in levels of developmental plasticity, i.e. the extent to which the behavior expressed by individuals varies as a function of environmental conditions experienced before the behavior was expressed. Variability in developmental plasticity of personalities might be a promising avenue towards understanding invasion abilities. I propose a study on orb-weaving spiders, which aims to integrate research on personality, developmental plasticity and invasiveness. I aim to compare invasive and non-invasive spiders for species average personality types and their variability, as well as for individual plasticity and heritability of behaviors in adults. I will then examine fitness consequences in high density groups. Furthermore, I aim to investigate how growth and related life history traits depend on food fluctuation, and how adult aggressiveness levels depend on group density during ontogeny.   The orb-weaver Zygiella x-notata is a successful colonizer of urban areas over the Holarctic. These spiders aggregate on human constructions in higher densities than randomly predicted. In habitats occupied by Z. x-notata, other sympatric orb-weaving spiders, e.g. Nuctenea umbratica, are limited to patches with low population densities. Although Z. x-notata are ecologically important, the biological bases of their success are understudied. I suggest that 1. adult individuals of invasive species show more plastic behavior with more behavioral types and lower behavioral heritabilities than adults from non-invasive species; 2. adult individuals of invasive species show little intra-species aggressiveness and exhibit higher fitness in high density groups; and 3. individuals of invasive species show high developmental plasticity depending on food availability and group density.   My project aiming to bridge research into the biology of invasive species, animal personalities and development plasticity, is important in providing the new insights into invasive characteristics of urb
Significance for science
The devastating consequences of human activities leading to urbanization and climate change are primary and demanding challenges at the global level. Related research and actions are among most important priorities of European (EU Horizon 2020) and global research. The output of the project has scientific and applicable value; the results are relevant for terrestrial ectothermic animals. The results of the project add to the existing knowledge of how animals respond to human altered environment: it suggests that urban exploiter exhibit higher life-history plasticity, higher among-individual variability and higher plasticity of behavioural responses than organisms unable to cope with urban environments. Results can help to obtain the realistic and reliable future predictions of species’ response. This is necessary for mitigation costs of human activity for biodiversity and human well being.
Significance for the country
The output of the project adds to competitiveness and attractiveness of Slovenian science in timely research areas. The PI collaborated with international partners, presented her research on international congresses and published several articles, contributing to consolidation and visibility of Slovenian science. She presented her research to popular media making research more attractive and understandable to general public. The project help to enhance the consolidation of a young woman researcher in Slovenian and international science and add to researcher's professional maturity.
Most important scientific results Annual report 2011, 2012, final report, complete report on dLib.si
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Final report, complete report on dLib.si
Views history