Social information, social feeding, and competition in group-living goats (Capra hircus)

Adrian M. Shrader, Graham I.H. Kerley, Burt P. Kotler, Joel S. Brown

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    45 Scopus citations


    There are both benefits (e.g., social information) and costs (e.g., intraspecific competition) for individuals foraging in groups. To ascertain how group-foraging goats (Capra hircus) deal with these trade-offs, we asked 1) do goats use social information to make foraging decisions and 2) how do they adjust their intake rate in light of having attracted by other group members? To establish whether goats use social information, we recorded their initial choice of different quality food patches when they were ignorant of patch quality and when they could observe others foraging. After determining that goats use social information, we recorded intake rates while they fed alone and in the presence of potential competitors. Intake rate increased as the number of competitors increased. Interestingly, lone goats achieved an intake rate that was higher than when one competitor was present but similar to when two or more competitors were present. Faster intake rates may allow herbivores to ingest a larger portion of the available food before competing group members arrive at the patch. This however, does not explain the high intake rates achieved when the goats were alone. We provide 2 potential explanations: 1) faster intake rates are a response to greater risk incurred by lone individuals, the loss of social information, and the fear of being left behind by the group and 2) when foraging alone, intake rate is no longer a trade-off between reducing competition and acquiring social information. Thus, individuals are able to feed close to their maximum rate.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)103-107
    Number of pages5
    JournalBehavioral Ecology
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - 1 Jan 2007


    • Fear
    • Group foraging
    • Harvest rates
    • Intraspecific competition
    • Social information


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