Social tactics of pigs in a competitive foraging task: the 'informed forager' paradigm.

Richard William Byrne, S Held, M Mendl, C Devereaux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Citations (Scopus)


Studies of the social dynamics in foraging groups have focused primarily on birds, rodents and nonhuman primates. We extended the study of animal social tactics to the domestic pig, Sus scrofa, by using an experimental analogue of natural foraging skills, the 'informed forager' paradigm. We investigated the behaviour of 16 pigs foraging in pairs in an arena in which food had been hidden in one of eight monopolizable buckets. Before each pair trial, one of the pigs, the 'informed' pig, was given privileged knowledge about the location of the food during a solitary search trial. The 'noninformed' pig was naive about the location of the food during pair trials, but heavier than its informed partner and thus able to displace the latter from the baited bucket. By first focusing on the informed pigs' behaviour, we show that pigs are able to remember and relocate the food site. They found the food in relocation trials, using fewer bucket investigations than expected of a random searcher. Second, by focusing on the noninformed pigs, we show that pigs are able to exploit the knowledge of others by following them to a food source. They investigated more buckets immediately after their informed partners significantly more often than expected by chance and required fewer bucket investigations to find the food in pair trials than expected from a random searcher, but not in solitary search trials. We discuss these latter findings with reference to social foraging tactics. (C) 2000 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)569-576
Number of pages8
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2000




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