A simple rule for animal foraging behavior – theoretical and experimental evidence
We aim to predict the distribution of animals across a landscape taking their behavior into account. To do so, we combine theoretical work with high-throughput behavioral experiments in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. We have found that C. elegans' distribution across food patches follows the predictions of game theory for crowded environments. From the mechanistic point of view, we find that the rule is virtually unaffected by chemotaxis--a surprising result, given that chemotaxis is one of the main mechanisms used by worms to find food. However, theory shows that this will be the case in a wide range of conditions. Despite the complexity of animal behavior, its effect on the final distribution of animals may often be summarized by simple rules.