Bayesian foraging with only two patch types

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model the optimal Bayesian foraging strategy in environments with only two patch qualities. That is, all patches either belong to one rich type, or to one poor type. This has been a situation created in several foraging experiments. In contrast, previous theories of Bayesian foraging have dealt with prey distributions where patches may belong to one out of a large range of qualities (binomial, Poisson and negative binomial distributions). This study shows that two-patch systems have some unique properties. One qualitative difference is that in many cases it will be possible for a Bayesian forager to gain perfect information about patch quality. As soon as it has found more than the number of prey items that should be available in a poor patch, it "knows" that it is in a rich patch. The model generates at least three testable predictions. 1) The distribution of giving-up densities, GUDs, should be bimodal in rich patches, when rich patches are rare in the environment. This is because the optimal strategy is then devoted to using the poor patches correctly, at the expense of missing a large fraction of the few rich patches available. 2) There should be a negative relation between GUD and search time in poor patches, when rich patches are much more valuable than poor. This is because the forager gets good news about potential patch quality from finding some food. It therefore accepts a lower instantaneous intake rate, making it more resistant against runs of bad luck, decreasing the risk of discarding rich patches. 3) When the energy gains required to remain in the patch are high (such as under high predation risk), the overuse of poor patches and the underuse of rich increases. This is because less information about patch quality is gained if leaving at high intake rates (after short times). The predictions given by this model may provide a much needed and effective conceptual framework for testing (both in the lab and the field) whether animals are using Bayesian assessment.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Ecology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-297
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Publication categoryResearch

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