Collective foraging has been shown to benefit organisms in environments where food is patchily distributed, but whether this is true in the case where organisms do not rely on long-range communications to coordinate their collective behaviour has been understudied. To address this question, we use the tractable laboratory model organism Caenorhabditis elegans, where a social strain (npr-1 mutant) and a solitary strain (N2) are available for direct comparison of foraging strategies. We first developed an on-lattice minimal model for comparing collective and solitary foraging strategies, finding that social agents benefit from feeding faster and more efficiently simply due to group formation. Our laboratory foraging experiments with npr-1 and N2 worm populations, however, show an advantage for solitary N2 in all food distribution environments that we tested. We incorporated additional strain-specific behavioural parameters of npr-1 and N2 worms into our model and computationally identified N2’s higher feeding rate to be the key factor underlying its advantage, without which it is possible to recapitulate the advantage of collective foraging in patchy environments. Our work highlights the theoretical advantage of collective foraging due to group formation alone without long-range interactions, and the valuable role of modelling to guide experiments.
|Journal||Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences|
|Publication status||Published - 27 Jul 2020|