Exploration can play a significant role in determining animal movement and interactions with their environment, but the factors shaping both intrinsic and extrinsic exploratory behaviour remain unclear. Here we focus on the extent to which exploration is shaped by local stimuli and individual differences. Our study examined the effect of a preferred food odour cue on guppies' (Poecilia reticulata) exploration and activity using a novel, simple maze. We presented individual male and female guppies with four open field tests, then a novel maze in the presence of either the odour cue or a control cue (conditioned water), and then the maze in the absence of the odour cue but after exposure to a stressor.
Here we present our initial results. Distance travelled, our measure of activity, was repeatable across the four open field tests and predicted distance travelled in the novel maze, suggesting that individuals showed consistent behaviour across the different situations. Guppies exposed to the odour cue explored significantly more unique compartments of the novel maze, as well as more compartments in total than guppies in the control condition, but we detected no differences in distance travelled. Thus food odour increased exploration of the novel maze, and further analysis suggested this was due to an increase in the length of time exploration continued. The difference in exploratory behaviour carried over to when subjects explored the maze after a stressor. Surprisingly, we found no evidence for sex differences in exploratory behaviour or interaction effects with odour treatment. In sum, these results indicate that a preferred odour cue can promote spatial exploration in guppies and that behaviour in a novel environment depends on both current conditions and individual characteristics.