Animal group forces resulting from predator avoidance and competition minimization

J A Beecham, K D Farnsworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


A new model to explain animal spacing, based on a trade-off between foraging efficiency and predation risk, is derived from biological principles. The model is able to explain not only the general tendency for animal groups to form, but some of the attributes of real groups. These include the independence of mean animal spacing from group population, the observed variation of animal spacing with resource availability and also with the probability of predation, and the decline in group stability with group size. The appearance of "neutral zones" within which animals are not motivated to adjust their relative positions is also explained. The model assumes that animals try to minimize a cost potential combining the loss of intake rate due to foraging interference and the risk from exposure to predators. The cost potential describes a hypothetical field giving rise to apparent attractive and repulsive forces between animals. Biologically based functions are given for the decline in interference cost and increase in the cost of predation risk with increasing animal separation. Predation risk is calculated from the probabilities of predator attack and predator detection as they vary with distance. Using example functions for these probabilities and foraging interference, we calculate the minimum cost potential for regular lattice arrangements of animals before generalizing to finite-sized groups and random arrangements of animals, showing optimal geometries in each case and describing how potentials vary with animal spacing. (C) 1999 Academic Press.</p>
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)533-548
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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