Organisms often face the choice of whether or not to pursue a prey item. As we saw in Chapter 5 of the textbook, optimal foraging theory predicts that evolution by natural selection will shape organisms such that they forage in an optimal manner, given the constraints of their environment. In the absence of increased risk due to foraging, optimally-foraging organisms will forage so as to maximize net energy gain per unit of time. Net energy gain is the energy acquired by metabolizing the food item minus the costs incurred. These costs can arise from many sources, including energy spent traveling to the food item, energy spent digesting the food item, and energy spent searching for the food item. If the food item is an animal, additional costs may be spent pursuing, fighting, and killing the prey item.
In the simulations that follow, you will act as an organism in search of food, following different strategies and testing which provide the highest net energy gain. These simulations consider only costs associated with traveling to the prey and digesting it.