Evol Ecol Res 8: 1311-1324 (2006)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Co-existence of learners and stayers maintains the advantage of social foraging

Sigrunn Eliassen,* Christian Jørgensen and Jarl Giske

Department of Biology, University of Bergen, PO Box 7800, N-5020 Bergen, Norway

e-mail: sigrunn.eliassen@bio.uib.no


Question: To what extent can learning facilitate group formation in a social forager?

Model features: An individual-based simulation model is used to explore frequency- and density-dependent interactions between mobile learners and non-selective stayers that forage in a patchy resource environment.

Key assumption: Foraging efficiency peaks at intermediate group sizes.

Conclusions: Frequency-dependent interplay between mobile learners and sedentary stayers represents a general mechanism of group formation that maintains the advantage of social foraging. When rare or at moderate frequencies, learners redistribute and aggregate in groups of optimal size. This enhances the foraging performance of both learners and stayers. When the learning strategy dominates in the population, group size dynamics become unstable, resource intake for learners drops, and stayers do best. The strategies mutually benefit from each other and may potentially co-exist.

Keywords: frequency dependence, group formation, group size, individual-based model, learning, optimal foraging theory, social foraging.

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