Essay Notes on Optimal Foraging Theory

Topics: Predation, Foraging, Optimal foraging theory Pages: 4 (1429 words) Published: May 20, 2013
Optimal Foraging
Hunting and escape strategies of predators and prey are probably the result of a coevolutionary arms race (Dawkins 1999). There is an economic approach that the scientific community can use to look at what kinds of prey preds choose to eat. Elner and Hughes (1978) found that when given a choice of different sized mussels, shore crabs Carcinus maenus selected the prey that gives them the highest rate of return. Very small mussels were easy to open but held less nutritional value, and large mussels held much nutritional value, but were too time consuming to break open and so were selected against. The shore crabs were seen to select intermediated sized shells and incorporated suboptimal prey into the diet only in proportion to their relative abundance, where they were chosen against as much as possible. What it is

Behaviours such as foraging involve decision making (such as where to search, what to eat), and the subsequent choices have costs as well as benefits. The Optimal Foraging Theory dictates that individuals should be designed by natural selection to maximise their fitness. This idea can be used as a basis to formulate optimality models which specify hypotheses concerning the currency for maximum benefit and the constraints on the animal’s performance (Davies et al., 2012). Behavioural ecology accepts the reality of the constraints and the upper and lower bounds, but the theory seeks to establish how an individual animal organises its own foraging behaviour within these limits.

Optimal foraging theory is a fundamental and integral part of behavioural ecology. It aims to establish if an animal’s foraging yields a net gain in energy. This net gain would increase the chance of this animals surviving and of successfully passing on its genes to another generation, an aspect of ecology referred to as fitness. If on the other hand, the animal is not foraging optimally, it will lose weight and condition and therefore the...
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