University of Oulu

Forsman, J.T. and Kivelä, S.M. (2022), Evolution of searching effort for resources: a missing piece of the puzzle in the ideal free distribution paradigm. Oikos, 2022: e08202.

Evolution of searching effort for resources : a missing piece of the puzzle in the ideal free distribution paradigm

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Author: Forsman, Jukka T.1,2; Kivelä, Sami M.1
Organizations: 1Dept of Ecology and Genetics, Univ. of Oulu, Finland
2Natural Resources Inst. Finland (Luke), Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-10-07


Animals commonly search for information about available resources to select a breeding or foraging site or a mate. Searching can be costly, which is why even random selection of resources may pay off. However, the evolution of searching effort in relation to key ecological factors and its ecological consequences remain insufficiently understood. We build a model to analyze the evolution of searching effort for resources in relation to key ecological factors; the cost of information acquisition, the cost of competition and the distribution of resource qualities. Evolutionarily stable searching effort decreased with increasing cost of information acquisition, eventually resulting in a random choice of resources. With a very low cost of information acquisition, evolutionarily stable searching effort increased with increasing proportion of low-quality resources in the available resource distribution, while the opposite was predicted with a higher cost of information acquisition. Cost of competition had only a negligible effect on the evolution of searching effort, except that increasing cost of competition increased investment in information acquisition when a resource distribution was biased towards high-quality resources. Informed resource selection (above-zero investment in information acquisition) resulted in skewed distribution of individuals across resources. Consequently, expected fitness became more similar across resources with decreasing cost of information acquisition and associated increase in searching effort, thus approaching the prediction of the classical ideal free distribution (IFD) model stating that individuals distribute themselves so that fitness is invariant across resources. However, we predict a positive correlation between fitness and resource quality with biologically more realistic parameter values, contradicting the IFD model. Costly information acquisition may, thus, explain why IFD is not always found in empirical studies. Generally, our results imply that avoidance of poor choices is more important for the evolution of information acquisition strategies than making the very best choices.

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Series: Oikos
ISSN: 0030-1299
ISSN-E: 1600-0706
ISSN-L: 0030-1299
Volume: 2022
Issue: 10
Article number: e08202
DOI: 10.1111/oik.08202
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: This study was funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation (grant to SMK), the Emil Aaltonen Foundation (SMK), the Estonian Research Council (grant PUT1474 to SMK) and the Academy of Finland (grants no. 122665 and 125720 to JTF; grants no. 314833 and 319898 to SMK) and Kvantum Institute at University of Oulu (grant to JTF). Funding from Kone Foundation (to JTF) has also partly made this study possible.
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 314833
Detailed Information: 314833 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
319898 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
122665 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
125720 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2022 The Authors. Oikos published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Nordic Society Oikos.This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.