Decision Making and Leadership in Using the Ecosystem

Hamisi Mutinda, Joyce H. Poole and Cynthia J. Moss

in The Amboseli Elephants

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780226542232
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226542263 | DOI:
Decision Making and Leadership in Using the Ecosystem

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  • Animal Behaviour and Behavioural Ecology


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As elephants compete for food, water, and mates, dominant groups and individuals will access higher-quality food resources and, in the case of males, a greater number of mates than those who are lower in rank. As elephants attempt to maximize their intake rate, they must make frequent decisions regarding when and where to go, with whom, and how long to stay in particular group configurations and specific locations. As predicted by optimal foraging theory, elephants must decide which groups and locations to gravitate toward or avoid so as to minimize within- and between-group competition and reduce encounters with (mainly human) predators. While foraging and mate-searching decisions by adult males are tailored to maximize individual fitness, those taken by females are likely also to be associated with increasing inclusive fitness, as is the case with many species living in kin-based social groups.

Keywords: decision making; ecosystem; food resources; foraging; elephant groups; competition; fitness

Chapter.  8726 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Animal Behaviour and Behavioural Ecology

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