Evolving nutritional strategies in the presence of competition: a geometric agent-based model
Senior, AM and Charleston, MA and Lihoreau, M and Buhl, J and Raubenheimer, D and Simpson, SJ, Evolving nutritional strategies in the presence of competition: a geometric agent-based model, PLoS Computational Biology, 11, (3) Article e1004111. ISSN 1553-734X (2015) [Refereed Article]
Access to nutrients is a key factor governing development, reproduction and ultimately fitness.
Within social groups, contest-competition can fundamentally affect nutrient access,
potentially leading to reproductive asymmetry among individuals. Previously, agent-based
models have been combined with the Geometric Framework of nutrition to provide insight
into how nutrition and social interactions affect one another. Here, we expand this modelling
approach by incorporating evolutionary algorithms to explore how contest-competition over
nutrient acquisition might affect the evolution of animal nutritional strategies. Specifically,
we model tolerance of nutrient excesses and deficits when ingesting nutritionally imbalanced
foods, which we term ‘nutritional latitude’; a higher degree of nutritional latitude constitutes
a higher tolerance of nutritional excess and deficit. Our results indicate that a
transition between two alternative strategies occurs at moderate to high levels of competition.
When competition is low, individuals display a low level of nutritional latitude and regularly
switch foods in search of an optimum. When food is scarce and contest-competition is
intense, high nutritional latitude appears optimal, and individuals continue to consume an
imbalanced food for longer periods before attempting to switch to an alternative. However,
the relative balance of nutrients within available foods also strongly influences at what levels
of competition, if any, transitions between these two strategies occur. Our models imply that
competition combined with reproductive skew in social groups can play a role in the evolution
of diet breadth. We discuss how the integration of agent-based, nutritional and evolutionary
modelling may be applied in future studies to further understand the evolution of
nutritional strategies across social and ecological contexts.