Scavengers on the move: behavioural changes in foraging search patterns during the annual cycle.
López López, Pascual
Benavent Corai, José
García Ripollés, Clara
Background Optimal foraging theory predicts that animals will tend to maximize foraging success by optimizing search strategies. However, how organisms detect sparsely distributed food resources remains an open question. When targets are sparse and unpredictably distributed, a Lévy strategy should maximize foraging success. By contrast, when resources are abundant and regularly distributed, simple Brownian random movement should be sufficient. Although very different groups of organisms exhibit Lévy motion, the shift from a Lévy to a Brownian search strategy has been suggested to depend on internal and external factors such as sex, prey density, or environmental context. However, animal response at the individual level has received little attention. Methodology/Principal Findings We used GPS satellite-telemetry data of Egyptian vultures Neophron percnopterus to examine movement patterns at the individual level during consecutive years, with particular interest in the variations in foraging search patterns during the different periods of the annual cycle (i.e. breeding vs. non-breeding). Our results show that vultures followed a Brownian search strategy in their wintering sojourn in Africa, whereas they exhibited a more complex foraging search pattern at breeding grounds in Europe, including Lévy motion. Interestingly, our results showed that individuals shifted between search strategies within the same period of the annual cycle in successive years. Conclusions/Significance Results could be primarily explained by the different environmental conditions in which foraging activities occur. However, the high degree of behavioural flexibility exhibited during the breeding period in contrast to the non-breeding period is challenging, suggesting that not only environmental conditions explain individuals' behaviour but also individuals' cognitive abilities (e.g., memory effects) could play an important role. Our results support the growing awareness about the role of behavioural flexibility at the individual level, adding new empirical evidence about how animals in general, and particularly scavengers, solve the problem of efficiently finding food resources.
López López, Pascual Benavent Corai, José García Ripollés, Clara Urios, Vicente 2013 Scavengers on the move: behavioural changes in foraging search patterns during the annual cycle. Plos One 8 1 e54352