Modelling foraging competition between solitarious and gregarious organisms in increasingly heterogeneous environments

F. Georgiou, J. Buhl, J. E.F. Green, B. Lamichhane, N. Thamwattana

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2 Citations (SciVal)


Density dependent phase polyphenism is the exhibiting of two or more distinct phenotypes from a single genotype depending on local population density. The most well known insect to exhibit this phenomenon is the locust, with whom the profound effect on behaviour leads to the classification of the two phases; solitarious, where locusts actively avoid other locusts, and gregarious, where locusts are strongly attracted to other locusts. It has been shown that food distributions at both small and large scales have an effect on the process of gregarisation. While gregarisation offers advantages, such as greater predator avoidance, the relationship between phase polyphenism and potential foraging benefits is still not fully understood. In this paper, we explore the effect of gregarisation on foraging within increasingly heterogeneous environments using a partial differential equation model. We first consider a single two dimensional simulation of a spatially heterogeneous environment to understand the mechanics of gregarious/solitarious foraging. We then look at the steady state foraging advantage (measured as the ratio of per-capita contact with food) in environments ranging from homogeneous to very spatially heterogeneous. Finally, we perform a parameter sensitivity analysis to find which model parameters have the greatest effect on foraging advantage. We find that during the aggregation stage, prior to the onset of marching (which we do not model here), in increasingly heterogeneous food environments it is better to be gregarious than solitarious. In addition, we find that this is intrinsic to the gregarious/solitarious behavioural dynamic as it occurs almost regardless of the model parameters. That is to say, it doesn't matter how fast the organisms disperse or how strong their long range interactions as long as there is the solitarious/gregarious behaviour the gregarious foraging advantage will exist.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104443
JournalJournal of Insect Physiology
Early online date5 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful to the University of Newcastle for the provision of a PhD scholarship for F.G.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Insect Science


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