Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences
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Does information sharing promote group foraging?

E. Sernland

E. Sernland

Department of Natural Sciences, University of Skövde, PO Box 408, SE-541 28 Skövde, Sweden

[email protected]

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O. Olsson

O. Olsson

Department of Animal Ecology, Ecology building, Lund University, SE-223 62 Lund, Sweden

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N. M. A. Holmgren

N. M. A. Holmgren

Department of Natural Sciences, University of Skövde, PO Box 408, SE-541 28 Skövde, Sweden

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    Individuals may join groups for several reasons, one of which is the possibility of sharing information about the quality of a foraging area. Sharing information in a patch–foraging scenario gives each group member an opportunity to make a more accurate estimate of the quality of the patch. In this paper we present a mathematical model in which we study the effect of group size on patch–leaving policy and per capita intake rate. In the model, group members share information equally in a random search for food. Food is distributed in patches according to a negative binomial distribution. A prediction from our model is that, the larger the group, the earlier each group member should leave the current patch. We also find that the benefit from enhanced exchange of information does not exceed the cost of sharing food with group members. The per capita intake rate decreases as the group size increases. Therefore, animals should only form groups when other factors outweigh the costs, which is easiest to achieve when the travelling time is short.