Foraging in a patchy environment: prey-encounter rate and residence time distributions

Elizabeth A. Marschall, Peter L. Chesson, Roy A. Stein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Small bluegill sunfish, Lepomis macrochirus, foraging among patches in the laboratory did not search systematically within a patch; their intercapture intervals did not differ from a model of random prey encounter within a patch. Patch-residence time, number of prey eaten, and giving-up time (time between last prey capture and leaving the patch) were measured for bluegills foraging in two different three-patch 'environments' (a constant environment, in which each patch began with the same number of prey and a variable environment, in which two patches began with low prey density and one patch with high prey density). When compared with three decision rules a forager may use to determine when to leave a patch, the data most closely agreed with predictions from 'constant residence time' rule. Bluegills responded to changes in the distribution of prey among patches, but not by using different decision rules. There was qualitative, but not quantitative, agreement with a model of random residence times. The total number of prey eaten by a bluegill during a foraging bout was similar to the number predicted from a model of random search and random residence times.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)444-454
Number of pages11
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue numberPART 3
StatePublished - Mar 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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