Article

Optimal Foraging

David W. Stephens

in Ecology

ISBN: 9780199830060
Published online May 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199830060-0057
Optimal Foraging

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  • Applied Ecology (Environmental Science)
  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Plant Ecology
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All organisms face problems of resource acquisition, and in the broadest sense foraging theory is an attempt to make generalizations about the processes associated with resource acquisition. In theory, resource acquisition is a very general problem, but in practice foraging theory is closely linked to the study of animals and their behavior, since feeding—acquiring the tissue of living things to consume—is, after all, a defining property of animals. Optimal foraging models take an adaptationist perspective in the sense that they ask which strategy among a given “feasible” set will lead to the highest evolutionary fitness, and in making these calculations, students of foraging often use the mathematical tools of optimization. The first optimal foraging models appeared in the late 1960s and 1970s. Most of those that we now see as the “classic foraging models” date to this time. The subfield of foraging has a split personality. The early pioneers in the field (Charnov, Orians, MacArthur, Pianka, Parker) clearly saw themselves as ecologists, and they were motivated by the idea that an understanding of predator behavior would lead to a broader understanding of ecological phenomena such as the distribution and abundance of both prey and predators. Yet, modern foraging theory is more closely allied to behavioral ecology, which seeks to predict behavior in ecological contexts. Foraging theory has influenced disciplines far afield from ecology or even biology, including anthropology, economics, computer science, robotics, neuroscience, psychology, cognitive science, and marketing.

Article.  10743 words. 

Subjects: Applied Ecology (Environmental Science) ; Ecology and Conservation ; Plant Ecology ; Zoology and Animal Sciences

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