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Individual- and population-level drivers of consistent foraging success across environments


Individual foraging is under strong natural selection. Yet, whether individuals differ consistently in their foraging success across environments, and which individual- and population-level traits might drive such differences, is largely unknown. We addressed this question in a field experiment, conducting over 1,100 foraging trials with subpopulations of guppies, Poecilia reticulata, translocated across environments in the wild. We show that individuals consistently differed in reaching and acquiring food resources, but not control ‘resources’, across environments. Social individuals reached and acquired more food resources than less-social ones and males reached more food resources than females. Yet, overall, individuals were more likely to join females at resources than males, which might explain why individuals in subpopulations with relatively more females reached and acquired, on average, more food resources. Our results provide rare evidence for individual differences in foraging success across environments, driven by individual- and population-level (sex ratio) traits.

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Fig. 1: Relationship between the proportion of food and control resources reached by an individual fish in its initial pool (first pool) and after translocation (second pool).
Fig. 2: Markov chain model of the guppy fission–fusion social system.
Fig. 3: Proportion of food and control resources reached per pool in relation to individual social time.
Fig. 4: Proportion of food and control resources reached per pool for individual males and females.
Fig. 5: Joining of first arriving fish by subpopulation members in relation to its sex.
Fig. 6: Proportion of detected resources reached by an individual per pool in relation to the sex ratio of its subpopulation.


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We are grateful to S. Bouet and S. García Martín for assistance with the video analysis and to F. Dhellemmes, H. te Brake and R. Seifert for assistance with the data collection. L.S. was funded by an IGB Postdoc Fellowship 2017.

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All authors contributed considerably to the design of the study and the collection of the primary data. L.S. and S.K. analysed the data and L.S. wrote the main manuscript. All authors commented on the manuscript and accepted its last version.

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Correspondence to Lysanne Snijders.

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Snijders, L., Kurvers, R.H.J.M., Krause, S. et al. Individual- and population-level drivers of consistent foraging success across environments. Nat Ecol Evol 2, 1610–1618 (2018).

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