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Optimal Foraging And Risk Of Predation: Effects Of Behaviour And Social Structure In Ungulates

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The interest in knowing and understanding the foraging behaviour of animals has led to the development of theories derived from different studies that were carried out in different parts of the world. The optimal foraging theory alleges that animals prefer to increase the benefits they acquire from consuming a resource to a maximal value and prefer to spend as less time as possible acquiring the resource. The theory has faced criticism as it is believed that it does not cater for all foraging cases, and present animal decision making may just be a reflection of past experiences, and that there are actually several other confounding factors that affect an animal’s behaviour and decision making in its respective social arrangement. John G in this paper reviews the earlier models of the theory on different cases of foraging behaviour of different animals in different areas that has been studied by other scientists and ecologists.

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Later on then the data is then compared to the behaviour that ungulates display in conjunction with the optimal foraging theory and states better recommendations. The models argues maximising food acquisition does not necessarily convert to reproductive success of the animals and that herbivores are not perfect subjects for foraging behaviour studies as their food sources in different landscapes are highly variable and that their decision making is highly influenced by other confounding factors other than just predation solely. However many researchers and ecologists have been said to be positive that foraging and feeding decisions in many animals are highly influenced by the risk of predation. With distinctions of some animals avoiding to forage during moonlight as this makes them highly susceptible to predation such as in some mice and rats, with variations in season, habitat structure and predator species.

In addition, the risk of predation has also been implied to affect how animals feed, ungulates modify their foraging behaviour in predator prone habitats. Ungulates that feed in open space habitats tend to be more prone to predation than the ones that feed in shrubby hidden areas and often forage in groups, as a way to counteract their susceptibility to predation. Moreover ungulates that feed in open spaces have been observed to be bigger in size compared to their rivals that feed in hidden areas. Ungulates that forage in groups have the advantage of increased vigilance as there are many eyes looking out for predators from a distance and spend much more time feeding than displaying individual vigilance, still without reducing the overall vigilance of the group. With regards to size, bigger ungulates tend to spend less time watching out for predators and more time feeding and have been observed to prefer to fight off their predators than to simply run and hide. The paper then looks at specific ungulate species foraging behaviours, a period of minimal eating regimen varied fundamentally from the watched eating regimen of moose on Isle Royale yet the vitality augmentation slim did not in the context of the linear programming model. The results on great kudus foraging behaviour implied them to be not magnifying their energy intake or reducing their foraging time. They are said to have rather fed on the food sources during the dry season that they were not used to feeding on during rainy seasons and improved their energy processing efficiencies in order to use more time foraging and feeding. In contrast, the foraging behaviour of the white tailed deer in the cold habitats of Canada in winter displayed a foraging strategy that is in line with the idea of the optimal foraging strategy, that animals amplify their energy intake.

In the winter season the white tailed deer are said to have the obligation to equalise spending their time foraging, in nutrient rich open foraging habitats that are rather cold, and spending time in foraging habitats with dense vegetation, but less food and then conserve their heat energy. They extended the time spent feeding in dense vegetation habitat whilst conserving heat energy, acquired more benefits than the costs. However this behaviour changed in late winter. They are said to have spent less time foraging with the purpose of avoiding temperature regulation costs that comes with foraging for longer as local temperatures were gradually increasing. Another herd of reindeer and caribou, of which members had died out in the mainland of Pic Island in Ontario were said to have appeared to survive well in the islands. The results that the researchers of the study obtained portrayed that the caribou, on exposure to the mainland they tend to feed on shrubs with higher energy in order to have more time channelled to vigilance and less feeding, and the opposite was true for the time they spent in the island, where they tend to spend more time foraging and feeding and actually less time being vigilant as there were no predators of the species in the islands.

Furthermore Mule deer and black tailed and domestic cattle foraging strategies were studied in a summer period with a linear programming theory. The outcome of the results suggested that the deer spent more time foraging with an increase in the number of livestock also feeding in the designated area. In conclusion the, ggg implicated that the linear programming is much more suitable in determining choices made on what to eat by animals and not necessarily the foraging behaviour of the animal. At long last, new diagnostic systems, for example, stochastic powerful programming may permit advancement of more practical models of searching conduct and may better fuse watched practices in ungulates

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