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On Optimal Use of a Patchy Environment

Robert H. MacArthur and Eric R. Pianka
The American Naturalist
Vol. 100, No. 916 (Nov. - Dec., 1966), pp. 603-609
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2459298
Page Count: 7
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On Optimal Use of a Patchy Environment
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Abstract

A graphical method is discussed which allows a specification of the optimal diet of a predator in terms of the net amount of energy gained from a capture of prey as compared to the energy expended in searching for the prey. The method allows several predictions about changes in the degree of specialization of the diet as the numbers of different prey organisms change. For example, a more productive environment should lead to more restricted diet in numbers of different species eaten. In a patchy environment, however, this will not apply to predators that spend most of their time searching. Moreover, larger patches are used in a more specialized way than smaller patches.

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