Hunger, Hiding, and Habitat: Observations and Game Theoretical Explorations of Foraging and Burrowing
thesisposted on 2017-02-17, 00:00 authored by Hilary Beth Osborne
These five chapters cover a wide variety of subjects. First, we explored naked mole-rat foraging patterns via a laboratory study measuring how naked mole-rats allocated their foraging efforts when searching for hidden treats. Contrary to our expectations of cooperative foraging, they appear to forage only for themselves, and may even hide information about food patches from one another: naked mole-rat society is apparently despotic rather than cooperative. Second, we traveled to Mapungubwe National Park, South Africa, to look at the distribution of aardvark-dug burrows, how quickly they appear and disappear, and how frequently they are used. We confirmed what many suspected: these burrows are distributed in a clumped pattern, and while they appear and collapse all the time, some last for many years and all have a good chance of being visited by some animal at any time. We also monitored dozens of burrows with camera traps to determine the identity of these burrow-users. Warthogs are king. This may reflect species abundance, as warthogs are quite numerous at Mapungubwe. The distribution of these burrows indicates that for aardvarks they are likely feeding digs, reflecting the clumped distribution of ant and termite nests. We then considered what actually happens when an aardvark tears into a termite mound. The termites can run away, send soldiers to defend the mound, or both. We created and explored a generalized model of how this additional decline, a form of behavioral resource depression, affects the time the predator spends in the patch and how much food they actually consume. We also took the first step toward combining this with the slow renewal of resources within a patch and how a finite number of these patches can affect the predator’s long-term harvest. Finally, we modeled how hunger may affect a forager and its predator. Inspired by the well-studied gerbil–owl foraging game, we developed a model which shows that the likelihood a predator will hunt increases with the forager’s hunger level.