University Of Tasmania
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Adaptive collective foraging in groups with conflicting nutritional needs

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 18:41 authored by Senior, AM, Lihoreau, M, Michael CharlestonMichael Charleston, Buhl, J, Raubenheimer, D, Simpson, SJ
Collective foraging, based on positive feedback and quorum responses, is believed to improve the foraging efficiency of animals. Nutritional models suggest that social information transfer increases the ability of foragers with closely aligned nutritional needs to find nutrients and maintain a balanced diet. However, whether or not collective foraging is adaptive in a heterogeneous group composed of individuals with differing nutritional needs is virtually unexplored. Here we develop an evolutionary agent-based model using concepts of nutritional ecology to address this knowledge gap. Our aim was to evaluate how collective foraging, mediated by social retention on foods, can improve nutrient balancing in individuals with different requirements. The model suggests that in groups where inter-individual nutritional needs are unimodally distributed, high levels of collective foraging yield optimal individual fitness by reducing search times that result from moving between nutritionally imbalanced foods. However, where nutritional needs are highly bimodal (e.g. where the requirements of males and females differ) collective foraging is selected against, leading to group fission. In this case, additional mechanisms such as assortative interactions can coevolve to allow collective foraging by subgroups of individuals with aligned requirements. Our findings indicate that collective foraging is an efficient strategy for nutrient regulation in animals inhabiting complex nutritional environments and exhibiting a range of social forms.


Publication title

Royal Society Open Science

Article number









School of Natural Sciences


The Royal Society Publishing

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

Copyright 2016 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences