Evol Ecol Res 8: 691-701 (2006)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

An allometric vision and motion model to predict prey encounter rates

Brian J. McGill1* and Gary G. Mittelbach2

1Department of Biology, McGill University, Stewart Biology Building, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1B1, Canada and  2W.W. Kellogg Biological Station and Department of Zoology, Michigan State University, Hickory Corners, MI 49060, USA

Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.
e-mail: mail@brianmcgill.org


Question: Can we develop simple allometric relationships based on predator and prey body size to more easily parameterize optimal foraging models and thereby make them more useful to community ecologists interested in studying species interactions?

Model: The rate at which a predator encounters its prey is often the most difficult parameter to estimate in any foraging model. We develop a simple geometric model to predict prey encounter rates as a function of predator mass, prey mass, and prey density using allometric relationships between predator search velocity and vision as a function of body size.

Empirical test: We suggest that the model has both strategic and tactical uses. Tests geared towards both uses are performed and these tests validate the model within the limits of existing data.

Conclusions: It appears possible to parameterize optimal foraging models through easily measured variables such as body size. This provides hope that Lotka-Voltera style community matrix models could be replaced with more mechanistic models based on optimal foraging that are easy to parameterize for an entire community. If so, this research agenda holds promise for developing the link between foraging models and species interactions that the original inventors of optimal foraging theory envisioned.

Keywords: allometry, encounter rates, optimal foraging.

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