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Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc. 2007 Aug;82(3):511-25.

Exploring the role of vision in social foraging: what happens to group size, vigilance, spacing, aggression and habitat use in birds and mammals that forage at night?

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1
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Montréal, P.O. Box 5000, St-Hyacinthe, Québec, Canada J2S 7C6. guy.beauchamp@umontreal.ca

Abstract

I examined the role of vision in social foraging by contrasting group size, vigilance, spacing, aggression and habitat use between day and night in many species of birds and mammals. The literature review revealed that the rate of predation/disturbance was often reduced at night while food was considered more available. Social foraging at night was prevalent in many species suggesting that low light levels at night are not sufficient to prevent the formation and cohesion of animal groups. Group sizes were similar or larger at night than during the day in more than half the bird populations and in the majority of mammal populations. Factors such as calls, feeding noises or smells may contribute to the formation and cohesion of groups at night. Larger numbers of foragers at night may also facilitate the aggregation of more foragers. Vigilance levels were usually lower at night perhaps as a response to the lower predation risk or to the decreased value of scanning for predators that are difficult to locate. Low light levels may also make visual cues that promote aggression less conspicuous, which may be a factor in the lower levels of aggression documented at night. Spacing varied as a function of time of day in response to changes in foraging mode or food availability. Habitats that are avoided during the day were often used at night. Foraging at night presents birds and mammals with a new set of constraints that influence group size, time budgeting and habitat use.

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