To maximize fitness, animals must respond to a variety of processes that operate at different rates or timescales. Appropriate decisions could therefore involve complex interactions among these processes. For example, eiders wintering in the arctic sea ice must consider locomotion and physiology of diving for benthic invertebrates, digestive processing rate and a nonlinear decrease in profitability of diving as currents increase over the tidal cycle. Using a multi-scale dynamic modelling approach and continuous field observations of individuals, we demonstrate that the strategy that maximizes long-term energy gain involves resting during the most profitable foraging period (slack currents). These counterintuitive foraging patterns are an adaptive trade-off between multiple overlapping rate processes and cannot be explained by classical rate-maximizing optimization theory, which only considers a single timescale and predicts a constant rate of foraging. By reducing foraging and instead digesting during slack currents, eiders structure their activity in order to maximize long-term energetic gain over an entire tide cycle. This study reveals how counterintuitive patterns and a complex functional response can result from a simple trade-off among several overlapping rate processes, emphasizing the necessity of a multi-scale approach for understanding adaptive routines in the wild and evaluating mechanisms in ecological time series. © 2010 The Royal Society.
|Journal||Proceedings of the Royal Society. B: Biological Sciences|
|Publication status||Published - 2010|
- behavioral ecology