Frequency-dependent conspecific attraction to food patches

  • Beauchamp G
  • Ruxton G
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Abstract

In many ecological situations, resources are difficult to find but become more apparent to nearby searchers after one of their numbers discovers and begins to exploit them. If the discoverer cannot monopolize the resources, then others may benefit from joining the discoverer and sharing their discovery. Existing theories for this type of conspecific attraction have often used very simple rules for how the decision to join a discovered resource patch should be influenced by the number of individuals already exploiting that patch. We use a mechanistic, spatially explicit model to demonstrate that individuals should not necessarily simply join patches more often as the number of individuals exploiting the patch increases, because those patches are likely to be exhausted soon or joining them will intensify future local competition. Furthermore, we show that this decision should be sensitive to the nature of the resource patches, with individuals being more responsive to discoveries in general and more tolerant of larger numbers of existing exploiters on a patch when patches are resource-rich and challenging to locate alone. As such, we argue that this greater focus on underlying joining mechanisms suggests that conspecific attraction is a more sophisticated and flexible tactic than currently appreciated.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Conspecific attraction
  • Genetic algorithm
  • Population size
  • Spatial resource heterogeneity

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Authors

  • Guy Beauchamp

  • Graeme D. Ruxton

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