Human Ecology

, Volume 42, Issue 6, pp 823–835 | Cite as

Benefits of Grouping and Cooperative Hunting Among Ache Hunter–Gatherers: Insights from an Agent-Based Foraging Model

  • Marco A. JanssenEmail author
  • Kim Hill


We develop an agent-based model of foraging behavior based on ecological parameters of the environment and prey characteristics measured in the Mbaracayu Reserve Paraguay. We then compare estimated foraging behavior from our model to the ethnographically observed behavior of Ache hunter–gatherers who inhabit the region and show a close match for daily harvest rates, time allocation, and species composition of prey. The model allows us to explore the implications of social living, cooperative hunting, variation in group size and mobility, under Ache-like ecological conditions. Simulations show that social living decreases daily risk of no food, but cooperative hunting has only a modest effect on mean harvest rates. Analysis demonstrates that bands should contain 7–8 hunters who move nearly every day in order to achieve the best combination of average harvest rates and low probability of no meat in camp.


Optimal foraging theory Agent-based modeling 



We thank Magdalena Hurtado for her help in collecting the ethnographic data, Robin Naidoo for providing a digital database of Ache vegetation types, and Benjamin Schoville and Erich Fisher for their assistance transforming our raw spatial data into a useable GIS database. Curtis Marean helped design the scope of analyses and Eric Smith, Curtis Marean and three anonymous reviewers provided extremely valuable comments. Portions of this research were funded by NSF-IPG grant BCS-1138073

Supplementary material

10745_2014_9693_MOESM1_ESM.doc (966 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 965 kb)


  1. Alvard, M. S. (1993). Testing the “Ecologically Noble Savage” Hypothesis: Interspecific Prey Choice by Piro Hunters of Amazonian Peru. Human Ecology 21(4): 355–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alvard, M. (2012). In Mitani, J., Call, J., Kappeler, P., Palombit, R., Silk, J., Mitani, J., Call, J., Kappeler, P., Palombit, R., and Silk, J. (eds.), Human Sociality. The Evolution of Primate Societies. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  3. Alvard, M. S., and Nolin, D. (2002). Rousseau’s Whale Hunt? Coordination Among Big-Game Hunters. Current Anthropology 43(4): 533–559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bird, D. W., and O’Connell, J. F. (2006). Behavioral Ecology and Archaeology. Journal of Archaeological Research 24: 39–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Fitzgerald, L. A. (1994). The Interplay Between Life History and Environmental Stochasticity: Implications for Management of Exploited Lizard Populations. American Zoologist 34: 371–381.Google Scholar
  6. Hawkes, K., Hill, K., and O’Connell, J. F. (1982). Why Hunters Gather: Optimal Foraging and the Ache of Eastern Paraguay. American Ethnologist 9(2): 379–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hill, K. (1988). Macronutrient Modifications of Optimal Foraging Theory: An Approach Using Indifference Curves Applied to Some Modern Foragers. Human Ecology 16(2): 157–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hill, K. (2002). Altruistic Cooperation During Foraging by the Ache, and the Evolved Human Predisposition to Cooperate. Human Nature 13(1): 105–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hill, K., and Hawkes, K. (1983). In Hames, R., and Vickers, W. (eds.), Neotropical Hunting Among the Ache of Eastern Paraguay. Adaptive Responses of Native Amazonians. Academic, New York, pp. 139–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hill, K., and Kaplan, H. (1988). Tradeoffs in Male and Female Reproductive Strategies Among the Ache: Part 1. Human Reproductive Behaviour: A Darwinian Perspective. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 277–289.Google Scholar
  11. Hill, K., and Hurtado, A. M. (1996). Ache Life History: The Ecology and Demography of a Foraging People. Aldine, New York, USA.Google Scholar
  12. Hill, K., and Hurtado, A. M. (2009). Cooperative Breeding in South American Hunter–Gatherers. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 276(1674): 3863–3870.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hill, K., and Kintigh, K. (2009). Can Anthropologists Distinguish Good from Poor Hunters: Implications for Hunting Hypotheses, Sharing Conventions, and Cultural Transmission. Current Anthropology 50(3): 369–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hill, K., Kaplan, H., Hawkes, K., and Hurtado, A. M. (1985). Men’s Time Allocation to Subsistence Work Among the Ache of Eastern Paraguay. Human Ecology 13: 29–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hill, K., Kaplan, H., Hawkes, K., and Hurtado, A. M. (1987). Foraging Decisions Among Ache Hunter–Gatherers: New Data and Implications for Optimal Foraging Models. Ethology and Sociobiology 8(1): 1–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hill, K., Padwe, J., Bejyvagi, C., Bepurangi, A., Jakugi, F., Tykuarangi, R., and Tykuarangi, T. (1997). Impact of Hunting on Large Vertebrates in the Mbaracayu Reserve, Paraguay. Conservation Biology 11(6): 1339–1353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hill, K., McMillan, G., and Fariña, R. (2003). Hunting‐Related Changes in Game Encounter Rates from 1994 to 2001 in the Mbaracayu Reserve, Paraguay. Conservation Biology 17(5): 1312–1323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hill, K. R., Walker, R. S., Božičević, M., Eder, J., Headland, T., Hewlett, B., Hurtado, A. M., Marlowe, F., Wiessner, P., and Wood, B. (2011). Co-Residence Patterns in Hunter–Gatherer Societies Show Unique Human Social Structure. Science 331(6022): 1286–1289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Houston, A., Clark, C., McNamara, J., and Mangel, M. (1988). Dynamic Models in Behavioural and Evolutionary Ecology. Nature 332(6159): 20–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hurtado, A., Hawkes, K., Hill, K., and Kaplan, H. (1985). Female Subsistence Strategies Among Ache Hunter–Gatherers of Eastern Paraguay. Human Ecology 13: 1–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kaplan, H., and Hill, K. (1985). Food Sharing Among Ache Foragers: Tests of Explanatory Hypotheses. Current Anthropology 26(2): 223–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kaplan, H., and Hill, K. (1992). In Smith, E. A., and Winterhalder, B. (eds.), Evolutionary Ecology of Food Acquistion. Evolution, Ecology, and Human Behavior. Aldine, Chicago, USA, pp. 167–202.Google Scholar
  23. Kaplan, H., Hill, K., Hawkes, K., and Hurtado, A. M. (1984). Food Sharing Among Ache Hunter–Gatherers of Eastern Paraguay. Current Anthropology 25(1): 113–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kaplan, H., Hill, K., Lancaster, J., and Hurtado, A. M. (2000). A Theory of Human Life History Evolution: Diet, Intelligence, and Longevity. Evolutionary Anthropology Issues News and Reviews 9(4): 156–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kelly, R. L. (2013). The Lifeways of Hunter–Gatherers: The Foraging Spectrum. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Krivan, V., and Eisner, J. (2003). Optimal Foraging and Predator–Prey Dynamics III. Journal of Theoretical Biology 63(4): 269–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Marlowe, F. W. (2005). Hunter‐Gatherers and Human Evolution. Evolutionary Anthropology Issues News and Reviews 14(2): 54–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McMillan, G. (2001). Ache Residential Grouping and Social Foraging. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of New Mexico.Google Scholar
  29. Naidoo, R., and Hill, K. (2006). Emergence of Indigenous Vegetation Classifications Through Integration of Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Remote Sensing Analyses. Environmental Management 38(3): 377–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Railback, S. F., and Grimm, V. (2011). Agent-Based and Individual-Based Modeling: A Practical Introduction. Princeton University Press, Princeton, USA.Google Scholar
  31. Robinson, J. G., and Redford, K. H. (1986). Intrinsic Rate of Natural Increase in Neotropical Forest Mammals: Relationship to Phylogeny and Diet. Oecologia 68(4): 516–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Smith, E. A. (1981). In Winterhalder, B., and Smith, E. A. (eds.), The Application of Optimal Foraging Theory to the Analysis of Hunter–Gatherer Group Size. Hunter–Gatherer Foraging Strategies. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA, pp. 36–65.Google Scholar
  33. Smith, E. A. (1985). Inuit Foraging Groups: Some Simple Models Incorporating Conflicts of Interest, Relatedness, and Central-Place Sharing. Ethology and Sociobiology 6: 27–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Stephens, D., and Krebs, J. R. (1986). Foraging Theory. Princeton University Press, Princeton, USA.Google Scholar
  35. Tomasello, M., Melis, A. P., Tennie, C., Wyman, E., and Herrmann, E. (2012). Two Key Steps in the Evolution of Human Cooperation: The Interdependence Hypothesis. Current Anthropology 53(6): 673–692.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Walker, R. S., and Hill, K. (2003). Modeling Growth and Senescence in Physical Performance Among the Ache of Eastern Paraguay. American Journal of Human Biology 15: 196–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Winterhalder, B. (1986). Optimal Foraging: Simulation Studies of Diet Choice in a Stochastic Environment. Journal of Ethnobiology 6: 205–223.Google Scholar
  38. Winterhalder, B., and Smith, E. A. (1981). Hunter–Gatherer Foraging Strategies. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA.Google Scholar
  39. Winterhalder, B., Baillargeon, W., Cappelletto, F., Daniel Jr., I. R., and Prescott, C. (1988). The Population Ecology of Hunter–Gatherers and their Prey. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 7: 289–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Human Evolution and Social ChangeArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

Personalised recommendations