Extra information on model parameters from Stable producer–scrounger dynamics in wild birds: sociability and learning speed covary with scrounging behaviour
2017-03-30T08:58:08Z (GMT) by
There has been extensive game-theoretic modelling of conditions leading to equilibria of producer–scrounger dichotomies in groups. However there is a surprising paucity of experimental evidence in wild populations. Here, we examine producer–scrounger games in five subpopulations of birds feeding at a socially learnt foraging task. Over four weeks, a bimodal distribution of producers and scroungers emerged in all areas, with pronounced and consistent individual tactic specialization persisting over 3 years. Tactics were unrelated to exploratory personality, but correlated with latency to contact and learn the foraging task, with the late arrivers and slower learners more likely to adopt the scrounging role. Additionally, the social environment was also important: at the broad scale, larger subpopulations with a higher social density contained proportionally more scroungers, while within subpopulations scroungers tended to be central in the social network and be observed in larger foraging flocks. This study thus provides a rare example of a stable, dimorphic distribution of producer–scrounger tactics in a wild population. It further gives support across multiple scales for a major prediction of social foraging theory; that the frequency of scroungers increases with group size.