Date of Award

Spring 5-2017

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Donald Sacco

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

Lauren Highfill

Committee Member 3

Richard Mohn

Committee Member 3 Department

Educational Research and Administration

Committee Member 4

Stanley Kuczaj

Committee Member 4 Department



Personality has now been studied in species as diverse as chimpanzees (King & Figueredo, 1997) and cuttlefish (Carere et al., 2015), but marine mammals remain vastly underrepresented in this area. A broad range of traits have been assessed only in the bottlenose dolphin (Highfilll & Kuczaj, 2007), while consistent individual differences in a few specific behaviors have been identified in grey seals (Robinson et al., 2015; Twiss & Franklin, 2010; Twiss, Culloch & Pomeroy, 2011; Twiss, Cairns, Culloch, Richards & Pomeroy, 2012). Furthermore, the context component of definitions of personality is not often assessed, despite evidence that animals may show individual patterns of consistency (Kuczaj, Highfill & Byerly, 2012). The current study therefore aimed to assess underlying personality factors and consistency across contexts in two unstudied marine mammal species, using behavioral coding.

Two California sea lion and three harbor seal personality factors were extracted using exploratory factor analysis. Two factors were broadly similar across species; the first, Boldness, resembled human Extraversion, and to some extent Openness. The second factor was labeled Routine Activity, and contained some Conscientiousness-like traits. Excitable-Interest emerged as a third factor in seals, but had low reliability. Species-specific patterns were also identified for interactive behaviors across two contexts. However, there was substantial individual variation in the frequency of these behaviors, as well as some animals who did not conform to species-level trends. This study therefore provides novel evidence for broad personality factors and both species- and individual-level patterns of contextual consistency in two pinniped species.