When an animal forages for food, it leaves it current location for what it hopes is a better locale.  We like to believe that this foraging decision is made when the animal expects to get more food if it leaves than if it stays.  Simple and obvious, right?  Unfortunately for our intuition, this doesn’t seem to be the case.  When I was at the Foraging workshop at Cosyne, one of the main themes of the day seemed to be that animals aren’t optimal foragers and they don’t look like our idealized rational economic agents, either.

Let’s consider an animal that is forced to choose between different sources of food.  Life isn’t easy, so it takes some time to gather the food from each source and after gathering it must leave the area before its allowed to gather food there again.  The way this particular experiment happens to be set…

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