This project combines our long-term population studies on great and blue tits with two of the main research interests of the group: mechanisms underlying spatial population processes (with special emphasis on dispersal), and adaptive variation in phenotypic traits, including behaviour and life-history traits.

Since 1994 we have collected data on dispersal in an “archipelago” of small woodlots with nestboxes within a 3 x 4 km study area. We have studied dispersal in relation to inbreeding (PhD Tom Van de Casteele) and to exploration behaviour as part of a “personality” syndrome (PhD Thijs van Overveld). Quantitative genetics analyses by postdoc Peter Korsten have shown that dispersal and personality are related not only at the phenotypic but also the genetic level. We also showed that personality is related to other spatial behaviours such as shift in home ranges following a change in food availability, and post-fledging family movements. Our exploration scores have been used in a number of multi-study investigations on plasticity and genetic underpinning of personality variation.

More recent studies have explored to what extent the classic personality test can predict behaviour of individuals in different behavioural challenge tests, such as a different exploration room or a setup with predictable and unpredictable resources (Lisa Arvidsson). We also explored the use of discrete choice models as a novel analytical strategy to go beyond the classic focus on dispersal as a linear distance or even a binomial process (Michalis Vardakis). Forthcoming projects will aim to extend the use of graph theory methods to analyse dispersal datasets, and to further explore sources of variation in multiple metrics of movement throughout the birds' lifetime (e.g. breeding, roosting and foraging sites).  

Highlighted publications

Dingemanse N, Bouwman KM, van de Pol M, Van Overveld T, Patrick SC, Matthysen E, Quinn J. 2012.
Variation in personality and behavioural plasticity across four populations of the great tit Parus major.
Journal Animal Ecology 81: 116-126.  (download PDF-1.2 Mb)

Korsten P, Mueller JC, Hermannstädter C, Bouwman KM, Dingemanse NJ, Drent PJ, Liedvogel M, Matthysen E, van Oers K, van Overveld T, Patrick SC, Quinn JL, Sheldon BC, Tinbergen JM, Kempenaers B. 2010.
Association between DRD4 gene polymorphism and personality variation in great tits: a test across four wild populations.
Molecular Ecology 19: 832-843.  (download PDF - 0.5 Mb)

Van de Casteele T, Matthysen E, 2006.  Natal dispersal and parental escorting predict relatedness between mates in a passerine bird.
Molecular Ecology 15: 2557-2565.  (download PDF -  0.2 Mb)

Van Overveld T, Matthysen E. 2010Personality predicts spatial responses to food manipulations in free-ranging great tits (Parus major).
Biology Letters 6: 187-190.   (download PDF - 0.3 Mb )

Van Overveld T, Matthysen E. 2013.  Personality and information gathering in free-ranging great tits.
PLOS One 8(2): e54199.   (download PDF - 0.5 Mb)