Stochastic dynamics of social patch foraging decisions Journal Article uri icon



  • ABSTRACTAnimals typically forage in groups. Social foraging can help animals avoid predation and decrease their uncertainty about the richness of food resources. Despite this, theoretical mechanistic models of patch foraging have overwhelmingly focused on the behavior of single foragers. In this study, we develop a mechanistic model that accounts for the behavior of individuals foraging together and departing food patches following an evidence accumulation process. Each individual’s belief about patch quality is represented by a stochastically accumulating variable which is coupled to others’ belief to represent the transfer of information. We consider a cohesive group, and model information sharing by considering both intermittent pulsatile coupling (only communicate decision to leave) and continuous diffusive coupling (communicate throughout the evidence accumulation process). We find that foraging efficiency under pulsatile coupling has a stronger dependence on the coupling strength parameter compared to diffusive. Despite employing minimal information transfer, pulsatile coupling can still provide similar or higher foraging efficiency compared to diffusive coupling. Conversely, since diffusive coupling is more robust to parameter choices, it performs better when individuals have heterogeneous departure criteria and social information weighting. Efficiency is measured by a reward rate function that balances the amount of energy accumulated against the time spent in a patch, computed by solving an ordered first passage time problem for the patch departures of each individual. Using synthetic data we show that we can distinguish between the two modes of communication and identify the model parameters. Our model establishes a social patch foraging framework to parse and identify deliberative decision strategies, to distinguish different forms of social communication, and to allow model fitting to real world animal behavior data.

publication date

  • February 12, 2022

has restriction

  • green

Date in CU Experts

  • February 15, 2022 7:11 AM

Full Author List

  • Bidari S; El Hady A; Davidson J; Kilpatrick ZP

author count

  • 4

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