Prior knowledge about spatial pattern affects patch assessment rather than movement between patches in tactile-feeding mallard

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) Science Article 9


Heterogeneity in food abundance allows a forager to concentrate foraging effort in patches that are rich in food. This might be problematic when food is cryptic, as the content of patches is unknown prior to foraging. In such case knowledge about the spatial pattern in the distribution of food might be beneficial as this enables a forager to estimate the content of surrounding patches. A forager can benefit from this pre-harvest information about the food distribution by regulating time in patches and/or movement between patches.We conducted an experiment with mallard Anas platyrhynchos foraging in environments with random, regular, and clumped spatial configurations of full and empty patches. An assessment model was used to predict the time in patches for different spatial distributions, in which a mallard is predicted to remain in a patch until its potential intake rate drops to the average intake rate that can be achieved in the environment. A movement model was used to predict lengths of interpatch movements for different spatial distributions, in which a mallard is predicted to travel to the patch where it expects the highest intake rate. Consistent with predictions, in the clumped distribution mallard spent less time in an empty patch when the previously visited neighbouring patch had been empty than when it had been full. This effect was not observed for the random distribution. This shows that mallard use pre-harvest information on spatial pattern to improve patch assessment. Patch assessment could not be evaluated for the regular distribution.

RAYMOND H. G. KLAASSEN, BART A. NOLET and CASPER H. A. VAN LEEUWEN, Journal of Animal Ecology 76 (1), 20-29

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