Optimal Foraging



Optimal Foraging

Food provides animals with the energy they need to survive. However, animals also lose energy in the process of obtaining, or foraging, for food. Therefore, in order to conserve energy, many animals behave in ways that minimize the energy they expend in the foraging process while at the same time maximizing their nutritional benefits. This energy-efficient approach to obtaining food is known as optimal foraging. The practice of optimal foraging allows animals to expend the least possible amount of energy while at the same time obtaining prey with high food value that will provide them with necessary nutrients.

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    <-NARRATOR:-> Now listen to part of a lecture from a biology class.
    <-MALE PROFESSOR:-> All right, so I-I've got a good example of this.
    There's a bird, a species of crow, that lives near the water,
    and it feeds on a type of shellfish that has a hard outer shell.
    In order to eat this shellfish,
    the bird has to crack open its hard shell.
    So when this bird feeds,
    what it does is it dives down out of the air into shallow water,
    grabs a shellfish in its mouth, then carries the shellfish up in the air....
    It then drops the shellfish
    lets it fall onto the rocks below.
    When the shellfish hits the rocks, its shell cracks and splits open,
    and the bird can eat it.
    Now this bird, this crow, doesn't just swoop down, grab the first shellfish it sees, then fly up to any height and let it fall.
    Instead, it does two things:
    first, it carefully selects only the biggest shellfish;
    that means it's going to get the biggest possible meal for its efforts.Second, it carries the shellfish up to a specific height, about five meters,and drops it from there.
    If the bird dropped the shellfish from a lower height,
    it would have to pick it up and drop it too many times in order to break the shell.
    On the other hand, if the bird carried the shellfish up to a higher altitude,
    an altitude higher than is necessary to crack the shell,
    it'd be wasting energy.
    So this bird expends just the right amount of energy-no more, no less-
    that it needs to obtain just the right kind of food.


Using the example from the lecture, explain the concept of optimal foraging.


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