The effect of exploration on the use of producer-scrounger tactics

R.H.J.M. Kurvers, S. Hamblin, L.A. Giraldeau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Individuals foraging in groups can use two different tactics for obtaining food resources. Individuals can either search for food sources themselves (producing) or they can join food discoveries of others (scrounging). In this study we use a genetic algorithm in a spatially explicit producer-scrounger game to explore how individuals compromise between exploration (an important axis of animal personality) and scrounging and how characteristics of the environment affect this compromise. Agents varied in exploration and scrounging and a genetic algorithm searched for the optimal combination of exploration and scrounging. The foraging environments featured different levels of patch richness, predation and patch density. Our simulations show that under conditions of low patch densities slow exploring scroungers were favored whereas high patch density favored fast exploring individuals that either produced (at low patch richness) or scrounged (at high patch richness). In high predation environments fast exploring individuals were selected for but only at low to intermediate patch densities. Predation did not affect scrounging behavior. We did not find a divergence of exploration ‘types’ within a given environment, but there was a general association between exploration and scrounging across different environments: high rates of scrounging were observed over nearly the full spectrum of exploration values, whereas high rates of producing were only observed at high exploration values, suggesting that cases in which slow explorers start producing should be rare. Our results indicate that the spatial arrangement of food resources can affect the optimal social attraction rules between agents, the optimality of foraging tactic and the interaction between both.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere49400
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • sticklebacks gasterosteus-aculeatus
  • guppy poecilia-reticulata
  • foraging group-structure
  • behavioral syndromes
  • genetic algorithms
  • individual specialization
  • fitness consequences
  • information-centers
  • social information
  • animal personality

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