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  1. Abstract

    Behavioral individuality is a ubiquitous phenomenon in animal populations, yet the origins and developmental trajectories of individuality, especially very early in life, are still a black box. Using a high-resolution tracking system, we mapped the behavioral trajectories of genetically identical fish (Poecilia formosa), separated immediately after birth into identical environments, over the first 10 weeks of their life at 3 s resolution. We find that (i) strong behavioral individuality is present at the very first day after birth, (ii) behavioral differences at day 1 of life predict behavior up to at least 10 weeks later, and (iii) patterns of individuality strengthen gradually over developmental time. Our results establish a null model for how behavioral individuality can develop in the absence of genetic and environmental variation and provide experimental evidence that later-in-life individuality can be strongly shaped by factors pre-dating birth like maternal provisioning, epigenetics and pre-birth developmental stochasticity.

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