Repeatability of behavioural and physiological traits is increasingly a focus for animal researchers, for which fish have become important models. Almost all of this work has been done in the context of evolutionary ecology, with few explicit attempts to apply repeatability and context dependency of trait variation toward understanding conservation-related issues. Here, we review work examining the degree to which repeatability of traits (such as boldness, swimming performance, metabolic rate and stress responsiveness) is context dependent. We review methods for quantifying repeatability (distinguishing between within-context and across-context repeatability) and confounding factors that may be especially problematic when attempting to measure repeatability in wild fish. Environmental factors such temperature, food availability, oxygen availability, hypercapnia, flow regime and pollutants all appear to alter trait repeatability in fishes. This suggests that anthropogenic environmental change could alter evolutionary trajectories by changing which individuals achieve the greatest fitness in a given set of conditions. Gaining a greater understanding of these effects will be crucial for our ability to forecast the effects of gradual environmental change, such as climate change and ocean acidification, the study of which is currently limited by our ability to examine trait changes over relatively short time scales. Also discussed are situations in which recent advances in technologies associated with electronic tags (biotelemetry and biologging) and respirometry will help to facilitate increased quantification of repeatability for physiological and integrative traits, which so far lag behind measures of repeatability of behavioural traits.

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Keywords Environmental effects, Intraclass correlation, Personality, Phenotypic plasticity, Reaction norm, Temperature
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Journal Conservation Physiology
Killen, S.S., Adriaenssens, B., Marras, S., Claireaux, G., & Cooke, S.J. (2016). Context dependency of trait repeatability and its relevance for management and conservation of fish populations. Conservation Physiology, 4(1). doi:10.1093/conphys/cow007