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When a group of individuals exploits a single patch, each forager acquires just a fraction of the patch sample information generated by the group. Because of this, individuals in groups may generate less precise patch estimates than solitary foragers. In addition, in cohesive groups, individuals may be forced to abandon a patch they estimate to be of high quality simply because all other group members abandon the patch. I quantify the associated foraging costs of less precise patch estimates and group cohesion by performing a series of Monte Carlo simulations. I compare the performance of a solitary forager with that of three possible patch estimation and departure strategies for group foragers. The three group strategies differ in the amount or kind of patch sample information used to estimate patch quality. All group foragers realized 24-40% lower overall harvest rates than a solitary forager. Groups that used some patch sample information generally performed better than groups that did not. One way group foragers can lessen the cost of group foraging is to use public information, i.e., noting the foraging successes of other group members. Additional simulations showed that the use of public information either in an entire group or within subgroups can substantially increase the foraging performance of group foragers.
Oikos © 1993 Nordic Society Oikos