Simple foraging rules in competitive environments can generate socially structured populations

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Social vertebrates commonly form foraging groups whose members repeatedly interact with one another and are often genetically related. Many species also exhibit within‐population specializations, which can range from preferences to forage in particular areas through to specializing on the type of prey they catch. However, within‐population structure in foraging groups, behavioral homogeneity in foraging behavior, and relatedness could be outcomes of behavioral interactions rather than underlying drivers. We present a simple process by which grouping among foragers emerges and is maintained across generations. We introduce agent‐based models to investigate (1) whether a simple rule (keep foraging with the same individuals when you were successful) leads to stable social community structure, and (2) whether this structure is robust to demographic changes and becomes kin‐structured over time. We find the rapid emergence of kin‐structured populations and the presence of foraging groups that control, or specialize on, a particular food resource. This pattern is strongest in small populations, mirroring empirical observations. Our results suggest that group stability can emerge as a product of network self‐organization and, in doing so, may provide the necessary conditions for the evolution of more sophisticated processes, such as social learning. This taxonomically general social process has implications for our understanding of the links between population, genetic, and social structures.

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ISO 690CANTOR, Mauricio, Damien R. FARINE, 2018. Simple foraging rules in competitive environments can generate socially structured populations. In: Ecology and Evolution. 2018, 8(10), pp. 4978-4991. eISSN 2045-7758. Available under: doi: 10.1002/ece3.4061
BibTex
@article{Cantor2018-05Simpl-42665,
  year={2018},
  doi={10.1002/ece3.4061},
  title={Simple foraging rules in competitive environments can generate socially structured populations},
  number={10},
  volume={8},
  journal={Ecology and Evolution},
  pages={4978--4991},
  author={Cantor, Mauricio and Farine, Damien R.}
}
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