Social foraging and dominance relationships: the effects of socially mediated interference

  • Sean A. RandsEmail author
  • Richard A. Pettifor
  • J. Marcus Rowcliffe
  • Guy Cowlishaw
Original Article


In socially foraging animals, it is widely acknowledged that the position of an individual within the dominance hierarchy of the group has a large effect upon its foraging behaviour and energetic intake, where the intake of subordinates can be reduced through socially mediated interference. In this paper, we explore the effects of interference upon group dynamics and individual behaviour, using a spatially explicit individual-based model. Each individual follows a simple behavioural rule based upon its energetic reserves and the actions of its neighbours (where the rule is derived from game theory models). We show that dominant individuals should have larger energetic reserves than their subordinates, and the size of this difference increases when either food is scarce, the intensity of interference suffered by the subordinates increases, or the distance over which dominant individuals affect subordinates increases. Unlike previous models, the results presented in this paper about differences in reserves are not based upon prior assumptions of the effects of social hierarchy and energetic reserves upon predation risk, and emerge through nothing more than a reduction in energetic intake by the subordinates when dominants are present. Furthermore, we show that increasing interference intensity, food availability or the distance over which dominants have an effect also causes the difference in movement between ranks to increase (where subordinates move more than dominants), and the distance over which dominants have an effect changes the size of the groups that the different ranks are found in. These results are discussed in relation to previous studies of intra- and interspecific dominance hierarchies.


State-dependent model Emergent properties Dominance hierarchies Social foraging Group behaviour 



This work was supported by a Natural Environment Research Council research grant awarded to GC, RAP, JMR and Rufus Johnstone (University of Cambridge). GC is currently funded by a NERC Advanced Fellowship. SAR created the model in discussion with GC. SAR coded the simulations, conducted the statistical analysis, and was responsible for the initial draft of the manuscript. The authors thank Fredi Devas, Kavita Isvaran, Rufus Johnstone, Hanna Kokko, Ryan Earley and an anonymous referee for valuable discussion and comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sean A. Rands
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Richard A. Pettifor
    • 1
  • J. Marcus Rowcliffe
    • 1
  • Guy Cowlishaw
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of ZoologyZoological Society of LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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