Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

pp 1-5

Date: Latest Version

Cooperative Foraging

  • Mystera M. SamuelsonAffiliated withThe Institute for Marine Mammal Studies Email author 


By-product mutualism


The process through which two or more individuals benefit from working together to obtain food resources.


Many species benefit from working together, in some form, for the purpose of locating and consuming food. Animals, from insects like the honeybee (Apis spp.) to carnivores such as the gray wolf (Canis lupus) and orca (Orcinus orca), benefit from not only foraging socially but cooperatively. This cooperation has been suggested to be one of the key drivers of evolution, sparking unique cognitive abilities (Wilson 2000).

Cooperative foraging, or by-product mutualism (Connor 1986), distinguishes itself from other social foraging styles (e.g., imitative foraging) in that it occurs when individuals are able to distinguish between group members and engage in altruistic self-restraint and complex communication. These abilities allow group members to coordinate behaviors to achieve a common goal, thus increasing individual foraging efficiency ...

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