Deer mouse, from New York Times, "Meet the Mice Who Make the Forest"

Preserving personality diversity

Metaphorical application to human communities & policy planning:

Keim, Brandon, and Tristan Spinski. “Meet the Mice Who Make the Forest.” The New York Times, November 25, 2022, sec. Science. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/25/science/climate-forests-seeds-mice.html.

…the personalities of small mammals influence their choice of seeds. Earlier this year the team described how some deer mice, depending on their personality, were more likely than others to cache red oak, white pine and American beech nuts in ways that promoted germination.

In turn, the personality-specific foraging strategies of rodents changed when predators were around…

And land use alters these dynamics.

Asked to define the practical implications of his research, Dr. Mortelliti said, “Preserve a diversity of personalities.” There’s no one ideal personality; rather, different individuals perform different roles. Depending on circumstance — drought, natural disturbances, fluctuations in predator populations — different personality types may come to the fore. …

A study the following year revealed that a more natural forest, with a mix of habitats rather than the uniformity favored by most commercial logging, contained a greater diversity of personalities.

“This diversity of personality types is maintained in populations because it’s a good thing, just like genetic diversity is a good thing,” Dr. Brehm said.

Mortelliti, Alessio, and Allison M. Brehm. “Environmental Heterogeneity and Population Density Affect the Functional Diversity of Personality Traits in Small Mammal Populations.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 287, no. 1940 (December 9, 2020): 20201713. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2020.1713.

We show that the richness, divergence and evenness of personality traits in wild populations are linked to key characteristics of the environment such as vegetation heterogeneity and a fundamental demographic parameter: population density. Maintaining functional diversity is widely considered a key conservation outcome [67,68] and our study provides evidence to suggest that conservation practitioners should consider vegetation heterogeneity and population density as key factors associated with high diversity of behavioural phenotypes. (Mortelliti and Brehm, 2020, p. 7)

(dear mouse photo from New York Times, “Meet the Mice Who Make the Forest.)

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