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The concentrations of resources in forage are not perfectly balanced to the needs of an animal, and food species differ in these concentrations. Under many circumstances, animals should thus forage on multiple food species to attain the maximum and most balanced intake of several resources. In this article we present a model to extend optimal foraging theory to incorporate concurrent foraging for multiple resources from several food species. A balancing of resources is achieved by representing the amount of a resource as the time during which it is used. Optimization is considered at two hierarchical levels: the time spent in a patch and the proportion of patches of each food species included in the foraging path. Our model results show that the balancing of resource intake can be achieved at the level of the foraging path, while the maximization of intake can be realized at the nested patch level. The choice for a food species should be dependent on the differences in intake and resource ratios between the food species. Under free choice of food species, the optimal patch residence time is subject not to differences between patches but to the local intake rate.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Journal publication date2009

ID: 262052