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An evolutionarily stable joining policy for group foragers

Ruxton, G. D., Fraser, C. & Broom, M. (2005). An evolutionarily stable joining policy for group foragers. Behavioral Ecology, 16(5), pp. 856-864. doi: 10.1093/beheco/ari063


For foragers that exploit patchily distributed resources that are challenging to locate, detecting discoveries made by others with a view to joining them and sharing the patch may often be an attractive tactic, and such behavior has been observed across many taxa. If, as will commonly be true, the time taken to join another individual on a patch increases with the distance to that patch, then we would expect foragers to be selective in accepting joining opportunities: preferentially joining nearby discoveries. If competition occurs on patches, then the profitability of joining (and of not joining) will be influenced by the strategies adopted by others. Here we present a series of models designed to illuminate the evolutionarily stable joining strategy. We confirm rigorously the previous suggestion that there should be a critical joining distance, with all joining opportunities within that distance being accepted and all others being declined. Further, we predict that this distance should be unaffected by the total availability of food in the environment, but should increase with decreasing density of other foragers, increasing speed of movement towards joining opportunities, increased difficulty in finding undiscovered food patches, and decreasing speed with which discovered patches can be harvested. We are further able to make predictions as to how fully discovered patches should be exploited before being abandoned as unprofitable, with discovered patches being more heavily exploited when patches are hard to find: patches can be searched for remaining food more quickly, forager density is low, and foragers are relatively slow in traveling to discovered patches.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: food sharing, foraging, information-sharing, local enhancement, producer-scrounger
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HA Statistics
Q Science > QH Natural history
Departments: School of Science & Technology > Mathematics
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