The hidden cost of information in collective foraging

François Xavier Dechaume-Moncharmont, Anna Dornhaus, Alasdair I. Houston, John M. McNamara, Edmund J. Collins, Nigel R. Franks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

47 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Many animals nest or roost colonially. At the start of a potential foraging period, they may set out independently or await information from returning foragers. When should such individuals act independently and when should they wait for information? In a social insect colony, for example, information transfer may greatly increase a recruit's probability of finding food, and it is commonly assumed that this will always increase the colony's net energy gain. We test this assumption with a mathematical model. Energy gain by a colony is a function both of the probability of finding food sources and of the duration of their availability. A key factor is the ratio of pro-active foragers to re-active foragers. When leaving the nest, pro-active foragers search for food independently, whereas re-active foragers rely on information from successful foragers to find food. Under certain conditions, the optimum strategy is totally independent (pro-active) foraging because potentially valuable information that re-active foragers may gain from successful foragers is not worth waiting for. This counter-intuitive outcome is remarkably robust over a wide range of parameters. It occurs because food sources are only available for a limited period. Our study emphasizes the importance of time constraints and the analysis of dynamics, not just steady states, to understand social insect foraging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1689-1695
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume272
Issue number1573
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 22 2005
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

foraging
Costs and Cost Analysis
Food
food
social insects
cost
social insect
Costs
nests
Insects
nest
insect colonies
Intergenerational Relations
information exchange
energy
mathematical models
Animals
Theoretical Models
duration
Availability

Keywords

  • Collective foraging
  • Division of labour
  • Information transfer
  • Optimal foraging
  • Recruitment
  • Social insect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)

Cite this

Dechaume-Moncharmont, F. X., Dornhaus, A., Houston, A. I., McNamara, J. M., Collins, E. J., & Franks, N. R. (2005). The hidden cost of information in collective foraging. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 272(1573), 1689-1695. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2005.3137

The hidden cost of information in collective foraging. / Dechaume-Moncharmont, François Xavier; Dornhaus, Anna; Houston, Alasdair I.; McNamara, John M.; Collins, Edmund J.; Franks, Nigel R.

In: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Vol. 272, No. 1573, 22.08.2005, p. 1689-1695.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Dechaume-Moncharmont, FX, Dornhaus, A, Houston, AI, McNamara, JM, Collins, EJ & Franks, NR 2005, 'The hidden cost of information in collective foraging', Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol. 272, no. 1573, pp. 1689-1695. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2005.3137
Dechaume-Moncharmont FX, Dornhaus A, Houston AI, McNamara JM, Collins EJ, Franks NR. The hidden cost of information in collective foraging. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 2005 Aug 22;272(1573):1689-1695. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2005.3137
Dechaume-Moncharmont, François Xavier ; Dornhaus, Anna ; Houston, Alasdair I. ; McNamara, John M. ; Collins, Edmund J. ; Franks, Nigel R. / The hidden cost of information in collective foraging. In: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 2005 ; Vol. 272, No. 1573. pp. 1689-1695.
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