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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

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

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Correspondence to Marco A. Janssen.

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Janssen, M.A., Hill, K. Benefits of Grouping and Cooperative Hunting Among Ache Hunter–Gatherers: Insights from an Agent-Based Foraging Model. Hum Ecol 42, 823–835 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-014-9693-1

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Keywords

  • Optimal foraging theory
  • Agent-based modeling