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Under versions of what may broadly be called the Resource Dispersion Hypothesis (RDH) several authors have concluded that territory size and group size are limited respectively, and independently, by the dispersion and richness of patches of food. This paper presents a model that shows how the frequency distribution of resources available per unit time within a territory may permit the formation of groups even in the absence of any functional advantage to any individual from the presence of another. In this model, animals (called primary occupants) occupy territories containing sufficient resources to meet or exceed their requirements for a critical proportion of feeding periods. The availability of these resources is described in terms of their mean richness and their heterogeneity, and plots of these parameters indicate the circumstances within which individuals may share the minimum territory with the primary occupants. The model shows how, under plausible conditions of resource dispersion, a territory that provides almost total food security for two occupants could also provide, at no cost to the original occupants, substantial food security for an additional group member, even if it never used the same food patches as the originals. It is not therefore, as is sometimes supposed, a necessary condition for the RDH that members of a group often forage simultaneously in the same patch. Thus the model describes ecological circumstances whereby groups could evolve amongst species whose members neither forage communally, nor even meet frequently. © 1986.

Original publication




Journal article


Animal Behaviour

Publication Date





1540 - 1549