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Animal behavior: foraging

Foraging, a crucial animal behavior, involves searching for food and balancing energy costs. Two primary strategies exist: solitary foraging, where animals hunt alone, and group foraging, where animals cooperate. While genetics play a significant role, animals also learn foraging techniques by observing and mimicking others in their group. Created by Brooke Miller.

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Video transcript

- One of the most important animal behaviors is foraging or the search for food within an animal's environment because without this ability, the animal's not likely to be able to survive and reproduce. But this behavior is an interesting one because there's kind of a cost-benefit analysis that's associated with it. Obviously, an animal needs to be able to do it to survive, but going out and getting food can actually take up a lot of time and energy, so the animal needs to use energy in order to gain it. And so the goal with foraging is always to figure out how to get the highest energy yield while expending the least amount of energy doing it. And the term foraging actually refers to a bunch of different behaviors. For example, it can include looking for food, like this antelope right here who's eating grass, but it can also include things like stalking prey, which we can see in this picture with the tiger chasing antelope. There are two main foraging strategies that an animal can use, and it's actually what we see the tiger doing in this picture right here, and that's solitary foraging. And actually, let me write that in orange to represent the tiger. So solitary foraging is exactly what it sounds like. It's when an animal looks for food by itself. The second type of foraging we see is group foraging, and that's what lions do. And so I'll write that in yellow here. And this is when animals look for food in groups. And one thing that's both good and bad about this strategy is that in this case, hunting would not only depend on your own behavior, but also the behavior of those around you. And so this can actually lead to competition within a group, especially when resources are scarce. But there can also be many benefits to this strategy. When many animals are working together, it means that predators can take down larger prey or difficult or more aggressive prey, so it can also be to the benefit of everyone in that group. Aside from looking at just strategies, another question that scientists typically have about foraging concerns how animals figure out how to do it in the first place. And obviously, foraging behavior is probably driven strongly by genetics, but it turns out that information about foraging can also be gained through animal learning. For example, in some species like many kind of primates, young members of a group learn to forage by watching the adults and copying their behavior. In doing this, they learn not only how to hunt but also what kinds of things they should be hunting.