Evol Ecol Res 16: 1-18 (2014)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Can foraging behaviour reveal the eco-evolutionary dynamics of habitat selection?

Douglas W. Morris

Department of Biology, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

Correspondence: D.W. Morris, Department of Biology, Lakehead University, 955 Oliver Road, Thunder Bay, ON P7B 5E1, Canada.
e-mail: douglas.morris@lakeheadu.ca


Rationale: Adaptive behaviours, particularly those related to resource harvest and the time available for fitness-enhancing activities, may serve as suitable surrogates for fitness.

Methods: I explore this potential link between behaviour and eco-evolutionary dynamics with controlled field experiments. The experiments manipulated densities of meadow voles foraging in large replicated enclosures. I used the lock-step connection between resource harvest and fitness to generate three fitness surrogates: giving-up densities from artificial resource patches, quitting-harvest rates, and time available for non-foraging behaviours that enhance fitness.

Results: Per capita consumption from food trays did not change with population size. Time allocated to foraging increased with population density. Quitting-harvest rates in both safe and risky patches declined linearly with population density. The total amount of time necessary for a new individual to acquire sufficient energy for maintenance increased hyperbolically. Invasion landscapes based on the three fitness surrogates yielded the same behaviourally and evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS) of habitat selection. But the fitness benefits, subsequent convergence towards the ESS, and potential variation about the ESS, varied.

Conclusions: Adaptive foraging behaviour is a reliable and rapid metric for assessing the evolutionary stability of habitat selection. This proof of concept suggests that behavioural metrics may play a prominent role in assessments of other strategies. We may even be able to use behavioural metrics to forecast ecological and evolutionary futures associated with ecological change.

Keywords: adaptive landscape, evolutionarily stable strategy, fitness, foraging behaviour, habitat selection, harvest rate, meadow vole, patch residence time.

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