Oral Presentation- Symposium 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Integrated foraging ecology and the magnetism of food patches (#273)

Clare McArthur 1 , Adrian M Shrader 2 , Peter B Banks 1 , Lisa A Shipley 3
  1. The University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW, Australia
  2. School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg,, South Africa
  3. School of the Environment, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, USA

Foraging ecology seeks to understand the drivers behind where animals go and what they eat in a spatiotemporal context. To date, much of the theory is about why animals quit patches: the extrinsic and intrinsic factors animals incorporate in rules governing decisions of when to leave. But patch quitting is only part of the foraging story. An equally important question is – why visit in the first place? Deciding which patches to visit involves perception, attention, learning, cognition, and detection of cues in reasonably short timeframes; overlaid by factors acting on a longer timeframe and associated with background risks, nutritional status, experience and memory of the foraging landscape. So an integrated foraging theory should incorporate the question of “why visit?” as well as the question “why quit?” We explore these questions with a focus on mammalian herbivores. We introduce a conceptual model of food patches as a landscape of magnets that attract and repel; and consider the rules animals use to manoeuvre through this magnetic landscape at small temporal scales associated with visiting and quitting patches. We argue that characteristics of food patches that attract animals, i.e. the cues or signals they emit, should be considered an important axis of patch quality. By adding this axis we can integrate sensory and movement ecology with classic foraging models such as optimal, Bayesian, and risk sensitive foraging.