Nonlinear effects of food aggregation on interference competition in mallards

A. Gyimesi, E.P. van Rooij, B.A. Nolet

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Previous studies of interference competition have shown an asymmetric effect on intake rate of foragers on clumped resources, with only subordinate individuals suffering. However, the food distributions in these studies were uniform or highly clumped, whereas in many field situations, food aggregation is intermediate. Here we investigated whether food distribution (i.e., uniform, slightly clumped, and highly clumped) affects the behavioral response of mallards foraging alone or competing with another. Although the amount of food was the same in all distributions, the mallards reached higher intake rates, visited fewer patches, and showed longer average feeding times in the highly clumped distribution. Competing mallards had lower intake rates on the slightly clumped than on the uniform or highly clumped food distributions. Subordinates generally visited more patches and had shorter feeding times per patch, but their intake rates were not significantly lower than those of dominants. Therefore, we propose that subordinates do not necessarily suffer from interference competition in terms of intake rate, but do suffer higher search costs. In addition, although dominants had significantly higher average feeding times on the best quality patches of the highly clumped food distribution, such an effect was not found in the slightly clumped distribution. These findings indicate that in environments where food is aggregated to a lesser extent, monopolization is not the best strategy for dominants. Our results suggest that interference experiments should use food distributions that resemble the natural situation animals are faced with in the field.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1897-1904
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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