-If we ask similar questions to investigate the “decisions” made by animals in the context
of our study of animal behaviour, we can gain a greater insight into animal foraging
*Side Note: Foraging, like other behaviours, can be thought of as a decision-making process.
Finding, choosing, processing and eating a food item may involve a sequence of behaviours
*Side Note: Learning plays an important role in foraging behaviour.
Learning can shape foraging behaviour
-A solitary animal may call upon its experiences in making decisions such as where to
forage and what to eat. For example: animals as diverse as octopus and rats can quickly
learn to navigate a maze to reach food, rats also exhibit an innate level of bait-shyness/
neophobia = a reluctance to try new foods, which protect them from poisoning (given
their pest status, poisoning is a real possibility for rats). In fact wild brown rats will avoid
a novel food source for several days even when familiar food is scarce or lacking.
Numerous experiments have repeatedly demonstrated that rats that do eat bait and survive
can learn very quickly to avoid the poison by associating the food that was eaten with
-This occurs as a result of a specific form of learning called conditioned taste aversion
(CTA). Some labs research baits that will not be avoided by animals other labs do the
oppositite. Example: in lab trials starlings given a choice between untreated food/food
laced with garlic oil strongly avoid the latter. These birds have a good sense of small &
are thought to be reacting specifically to the sulphurous odour of the garlic, this is a good
strategy because sulphurous smell often indicate the presence of toxic selenium in
foodstuffs. Because starlings are agricultural pests this research could help crop
Animals exploit information provided by their neighbours
- successful foragers provide information (intentionally/unintentionally) that can be used by
an individual to enhance its own foraging success. Example: its been suggested that the
breeding colonies of some bird species may have an additional function as centers for
information transfer. However, not all birds that breed colonially take advantage of the
foraging information provided by their neighbour.