Causal evidence for the adaptive benefits of social foraging in the wild

Lysanne Snijders*, Stefan Krause, Alan N. Tump, Michael Breuker, Chente Ortiz, Sofia Rizzi, Indar W. Ramnarine, Jens Krause, Ralf H.J.M. Kurvers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Sociality is a fundamental organizing principle across taxa, thought to come with a suite of adaptive benefits. However, making causal inferences about these adaptive benefits requires experimental manipulation of the social environment, which is rarely feasible in the field. Here we manipulated the number of conspecifics in Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata) in the wild, and quantified how this affected a key benefit of sociality, social foraging, by investigating several components of foraging success. As adaptive benefits of social foraging may differ between sexes, we studied males and females separately, expecting females, the more social and risk-averse sex in guppies, to benefit more from conspecifics. Conducting over 1600 foraging trials, we found that in both sexes, increasing the number of conspecifics led to faster detection of novel food patches and a higher probability of feeding following detection of the patch, resulting in greater individual resource consumption. The extent of the latter relationship differed between the sexes, with males unexpectedly exhibiting a stronger social benefit. Our study provides rare causal evidence for the adaptive benefits of social foraging in the wild, and highlights that sex differences in sociality do not necessarily imply an unequal ability to profit from the presence of others.

Original languageEnglish
Article number94
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2021

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