CIE Spotlight: Testing optimal foraging theory models on benthic divers

John A.
John A.

Title: Testing optimal foraging theory models on benthic divers

Authors: Foo, Dahlia; Semmens, Jayson M.; Arnould, John P. Y.; Dorville, Nicole; Hoskins, Andrew J.; Abernathy, Kyler; Marshall, Greg J.; Hindell, Mark A.

Source: ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR, 112 127-138, FEB 2016

Brief summary of the paper: Empirical testing of optimal foraging models on diving air-breathing animals is limited due to difficulties in quantifying the prey field through direct observations.

Here we used accelerometers to detect rapid head movements during prey encounter events (PEE) of free-ranging benthic-divers, Australian fur seals, Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus. PEE signals from accelerometer data were validated by simultaneous video data.

We then used PEEs as a measure of patch quality to test several optimal foraging model predictions. Seals had longer bottom durations in unfruitful dives (no PEE) than those with some foraging success (PEE ≥ 1).

However, when examined in greater detail, seals had longer bottom durations in dives with more PEEs, but shorter bottom durations in bouts (sequences of dives) with more PEEs.

Our results suggest that seals were generally maximizing bottom durations in all foraging dives, characteristic of benthic divers. However, successful foraging dives might be more energetically costly (e.g. digestive costs), thus resulting in shorter bottom durations at the larger scale of bouts.

Our study provides a case study of how the foraging behaviour of a central place forager foraging in a fairly homogeneous environment, with relatively high travel costs, may deviate from current foraging models under different situations.

Future foraging models should aim to integrate other aspects (e.g. diet) of the foraging process for more accurate predictions.