Decision ecology: Foraging and the ecology of animal decision making

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In this article, I review the approach taken by behavioral ecologists to the study of animal foraging behavior and explore connections with general analyses of decision making. I use the example of patch exploitation decisions in this article in order to develop several key points about the properties of naturally occurring foraging decisions. First, I argue that experimental preparations based on binary, mutually exclusive choice are not good models of foraging decisions. Instead, foraging choices have a sequential foreground-background structure, in which one option is in the background of all other options. Second, behavioral ecologists view foraging as a hierarchy of decisions that range from habitat selection to food choice. Finally, data suggest that foraging animals are sensitive to several important trade-offs. These trade-offs include the effects of competitors and group mates, as well as the problem of predator avoidance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)475-484
Number of pages10
JournalCognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2008


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