Costs and benefits of pocket gopher foraging: Linking behavior and physiology

Stephanie S. Romañach, Eric W. Seabloom, O. J. Reichman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Animals can attain fitness benefits by maintaining a positive net energy balance, including costs of movement during resource acquisition and the profits from foraging. Subterranean rodent burrowing provides an excellent system in which to examine the effects of movement costs on foraging behavior because it is energetically expensive to excavate burrows. We used an individual-based modeling approach to study pocket gopher foraging and its relationship to digging cost, food abundance, and food distribution. We used a unique combination of an individual-based foraging-behavior model and an energetic model to assess survival, body mass dynamics, and burrow configurations. Our model revealed that even the extreme cost of digging is not as costly as it appears when compared to metabolic costs. Concentrating digging in the area where food was found, or area-restricted search (ARS), was the most energetically efficient digging strategy compared to a random strategy. Field data show that natural burrow configurations were more closely approximated by the animals we modeled using ARS compared to random diggers. By using behavior and simple physiological principles in our model, we were able to observe realistic body mass dynamics and recreate natural movement patterns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2047-2057
Number of pages11
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2007


  • Area-restricted search
  • Burrow geometry
  • Digging cost
  • Energetics
  • Geomyidae
  • Pocket gopher
  • Simulation model
  • Subterranean rodent
  • Vegetation abundance
  • Vegetation distribution


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