Over recent years, modelling approaches from nutritional ecology (known as Nutritional Geometry) have been increasingly used to describe how animals and some other organisms select foods and eat them in appropriate amounts in order to maintain a balanced nutritional state maximising fitness. These nutritional strategies profoundly affect the physiology, behaviour and performance of individuals, which in turn impact their social interactions within groups and societies. Here, we present a conceptual framework to study the role of nutrition as a major ecological factor influencing the development and maintenance of social life. We first illustrate some of the mechanisms by which nutritional differences among individuals mediate social interactions in a broad range of species and ecological contexts. We then explain how studying individual- and collective-level nutrition in a common conceptual framework derived from Nutritional Geometry can bring new fundamental insights into the mechanisms and evolution of social interactions, using a combination of simulation models and manipulative experiments.
Keywords: Collective animal behaviour; individual-based models; nutritional ecology; nutritional geometry; social biology; social interactions.
© 2015 The Authors. Ecology Letters published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd and CNRS.