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Optimal Inspection Time in Foraging Strategies: a Model for Superparasitism in Insect Parasitoids

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image of Netherlands Journal of Zoology
For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Animal Biology (Vol 53 and onwards).

Many average rate maximization models predicting zero-one rules are based on the assumption that the behavioural decision is to accept or to reject a prey of a given quality, usually assuming perfect recognition of the prey type. Observed "partial preferences" that deviate from zero-one rules are classically explained by stochasticity, incomplete or erroneous information, or several kinds of heterogeneity. Such partial preferences usually occur at the population level, but each individual decision is still dichotomic. Here, we approach the problem of partial preference differently, as the outcome of an optimization strategy. Considering the case of parasitoids searching for hosts and attempting to avoid superparasitism, we propose that the decision variable is the time allocated to host inspection and that the recognition probability is related to inspection time. The decision process itself predicts partial preference at the individual level: upon each encounter with a parasitized host, a foraging female has a probability 0p1 of accepting it. The accuracy of host recognition can be increased at will by increasing the inspection time. However, this involves a time cost that must be balanced against other time consuming activities like searching and oviposition. Assuming average rate maximization, we calculate the optimal inspection time and we show that this generates some degree of non-recognition at the individual level. Partial preference is therefore a component of the optimal strategy. The model depends on several parameters including the availability of healthy hosts, the time cost of oviposition, the time cost of searching and the payoff of a supernumerary egg. For some values of these parameters, the optimal strategy is not to inspect (i.e., not to avoid superparasitism) as, for example, in the case where the payoff of superparasitism equals the payoff of single parasitism. Only few examples were found in the literature that support the model's hypothesis directly. However, partial acceptance as well as varying handling times, which are both predicted by the model, are common observations. We discuss several possibilities for testing the model experimentally.

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Zoology and Animal Ecology, University of Lausanne, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland; 2: Ecologie des populations et communautés, URA 2154, Bâtiment 362, Université Paris-Sud XI, 91405 Orsay cedex, France, Ecologie des populations et communautés, Institut national agronomique Paris-Grignon, 75231 Paris cedex 05, France


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