Evidence that Dynamic Foraging Behaviors Are Innate in Multiple Species including Human Beings

James K. Hazy, April 18, 2012


Dynamic foraging behaviors are defined in human interaction dynamics (HID) as those behaviors that occur as individuals contemplate whether to engage static foraging among the known options in the local environment, or to delay gratification and begin to search for new ones that might be fruitful at a later time. The biological mechanisms that enable this process are being uncovered in human neural processes.

In one recent study, dynamic foraging was shown to involve different areas of the human brain depending upon whether the individual was either deciding what to do versus executing on that decision by acting to either engage the options in the local environment or to search for resources which might be useful later. In an April 2012 article in Science, Kolling, Behrens, Mars, and Rushworth (2012) designed an experiment which as they say demonstrates that "humans can alternate between two models of choice, comparative decision-making and [static] foraging, depending on distinct neural mechanisms...." If supported in future research, this research would help to clarify the process involved as human being work to balance the exploration for future prospects against the exploitation of current opportunities.

Foraging across time as well as space (known as dynamic foraging) incurs specific search-related costs. At a minimum there are opportunity costs, but there may be other costs to this behavior as well. Of course, in a dynamic ecosystem, there may be benefits to this dynamic approach as well. because success is not assured, a probabilistic cost-benefit analysis is required.

In their March Science article, Liang et al. (2012) show that Honey Bees solve this process on a molecular level.


Kolling, N., Behrens, T. E. J., Mars, R. B.,& Rushworth, M. F. S. (2012). Neural Mechanisms of Foraging. Science 226, 95-98.

Liang, Z. S., Nguyen, T., Mattila, H. R., Rodriguez-Zas, S.L., Seeley, T. D., & Robinson, G.E. (2012) Molecular Determinants of Scouting Behavior in Honety Bees. Science, (335), 1225-1228.