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Predator and Prey Models - Part II

From: Terry W. Colvin <fortean1.nul>
Date: Fri, 27 Feb 2004 19:47:59 -0700
Fwd Date: Sat, 28 Feb 2004 11:01:31 -0500
Subject: Predator and Prey Models - Part II


There are a variety of relations that obtain between predator
and prey. Some predators, such as the anteater, specialize in a
single prey; others, like the wolf, ingest a wide range of prey,
but most probably fall in the mid-range (Evans and Schmidt
1990). All predators need strategies to locate, obtain and
consume prey, but the nature of these strategies can range from
the genetically programmed activities of spiders , to the
complex hunting practices of the !Kung bushmen of the Kalahari
Desert (Lee 1979, Lee 1984, Marshall 1976). In the latter case,
intelligence not only makes it more likely that prey will be
obtained, it also promotes an optimal distribution of calories
and even saving against future need.

In assessing whether or not predators are as likely as others to
develop high intelligence, the answer is unequivocal PPP they
are not less, but more likely than others to evolve a high
intelligence. This somewhat surprising conclusion results from
an examination of ethological research, as well as contemplation
of the models purporting to describe factors that promote

Recall that intelligence is selected for when it enables an
organism to exploit resources that would otherwise elude it.
This argument holds for both predators and prey, but, for
reasons I will discuss below, its selective pressure is greater
for predators. Recall also, that complex environments select for
intelligence by creating conditions where more intelligent
competitors have an advantage in exploiting limited resources
(Evans and Schmidt 1990, Robinson 1990). The simple fact of the
matter is that predators have a more difficult set of problems
to solve and these involve environmental conditions that are
more complex for the predator than they are for the prey. Said
another way, predators are more environmentally challenged than
prey and this increases the selective advantage of increased

Prey need to locate resources which, in the case of herbivores
are nicely stationary. Further, they need to survive the
depredations of predators, but it is not necessary that all
individuals need to endure, to insure the perpetuation of the
prey species. Indeed, many prey adapt to the competition with
predators by becoming more fecund rather than more elusive.

In contrast, predators must actively solve their problems
including locating prey. As Malthus would suggest, there are
always more prey than predators, but such prey may prove
difficult to find. To survive, predators must prove more capable
than their prey. The complexity of a predator's environment not
only includes those elements also encountered by prey, but also
the behavior of the prey itself. It might be argued that the
prey could benefit from being able to better model the behavior
of predators but, given their

higher birth rate and the costs of intelligence, the selective
advantage of intelligence is actually less for prey than for

As may be imagined, the presumed world view of an intelligent
predator would view other entities in an extremely utilitarian,
probably gustatory, fashion. There would likely be constraints
on exploitative behaviors, since no intelligent predator would
wish to extirpate a source of calories, but there is no reason
to anticipate much in the way of inter-sapient altruism. Indeed
should Extraterrestrial visitors prove to be evolved from a
consistent predator base, it seems likely that their interest in
us would, at least from our perspective, be quite malevolent.

Of course, it may be argued that the assumption of uniform
hostility on the part of Extraterrestrials descended from
predator stock is too simplistic since it does not incorporate
the meliorating influence of adaptation to social life over a
prolonged period of evolution. My image of predators also
obfuscates the possible role of culture in reducing an us-them
view of the universe. In fairness, then, we should examine a
wider range of possibilities in which intelligence can be
promoted by a variety of circumstances in addition to predation.


Tool Use: Since the middle of this century, one of the classic
arguments in anthropology concerning a probable stimulus for
intelligence focused on early tool use (Oakley 1959). Tool use
and, especially, tool manufacture place a premium on eye-hand
coordination, the ability to visualize a future result, and
other capacities associated with intelligence (Washburn 1960,
Wynn 1988). To the extent that tool use and tool making
represent an adaptive advantage in a competitive environment,
the qualities on which they depend will be selected for. It is
argued that our australopithecine forbears, who first used
tools, and Homo habilis, who first constructed tools, set in
motion a positive feedback loop, an ineluctable chain of events
that culminated in Homo sapiens sapiens. The selection for
better eye- hand coordination and greater intelligence resulted
in organisms that could construct more effective tools. These
tools conferred an even greater adaptive advantage which, in
turn, increased the selective pressure for better eye-hand
coordination, greater intelligence, and so forth.

Although it is now regarded as unlikely that this model best
accounts for the evolution of human intellectual capacities
(Wynn 1988), it does seems probable that constructing tools
helped to further human intelligence. It also seems quite
possible that the development of a tool tradition would have a
similar influence on Extraterrestrial life forms.

Interestingly, while the role of tool reliance is relevant to
the development of intelligence, it seems to tell us nothing
about the ethical implications of that intelligence. Tools can
be used for a variety of purposes, both malignant and benign.
The purpose towards which tools are bent will depend upon
considerations that are essentially independent of tool
manufacture itself. Tool use means greater efficiency, but it
does not suggest toward what end.

Spatial Behavior: Most evolutionary scenarios for our hominid
past include a prolonged period of foraging. Except for
carnivores, it seems likely that a lengthy interval of gathering
would characterize many organisms as they evolved toward higher
intelligence. Several anthropologists have argued that the
demands of foraging behavior make increased intelligence highly
adaptive. Foraging puts a premium on memory and

on the ability to locate and exploit ephemeral resources.
Further, foraging through a defined domain, emphasizes the
ability to estimate the location and reoccurrence of seasonal
resources. One authority on primate foraging behaviors has
argued that those primates with larger brains also have larger
ranges and more varied diets, suggesting a causal relationship
(Milton 1988).

Whatever the role of foraging in selecting for intelligence, it
seems likely that it would be only one factor among many. Some
authorities have suggested that the evolution of the nervous
system was partly due to the memory requirements described above
and partly due to a more general need for problem solving
skills. It is thought that there were selective pressures
calling for the mind to make ever finer discriminations (Iran-
 Nejad, et al. 1992).

The ability to develop accurate cognitive maps of an organism's
territory would confer a variety of advantages ranging from more
reliable resource exploitation to fewer encounters with
dangerous competitors. However, again, this adaptation would
seem to provide little indication of the ethical implications of
an intelligence derived from such stimuli. To encounter matters
of ethical moment, we must, almost by definition, look to the
social realm where organisms interact with one another.

Social Behavior: The best argument for the importance of the
social environment in creating pressure for increased
intelligence was advanced by Alison Jolly (1985), a noted
primatologist, currently at Princeton. Jolly's study of Lemurs
revealed that there were significant, complex, social problems
to be solved in order for an organism to mate, cooperate with
others, and maintain a viable group status. She argued that the
need to adapt to complex social circumstances selected for
intelligence in both males and females (Jolly 1985). Further,
the slow maturation of young created a situation in which
learned social skills had an early impact on dominance relations
and, later, on mating opportunities. Nor was this reproductive
concern solely one for males, as it has been shown that dominant
females tend to have more opportunities for mating and a greater
likelihood of raising dominant males.

Several studies have recently supported Jolly's original
contribution and elaborated some of the mechanisms involved
(Lewin 1988). Cheney, working with vervets found that their
adaptive social behaviors and social learning were significantly
more complex than behaviors related to other tasks such as
foraging (Cheney and Seyfarth 1988). There is currently general
agreement that demands of social participation are perhaps the
most powerful stimuli for the development of higher
intelligence. Authorities assert that socially skilled organisms
have significant advantages over others, including a better
ability to foresee the behavior of their competitors (Smith
1984: 69), and greater skill in constructing and maintaining
profitable alliances (Harcourt 1988).

Portions of this scenario seem foreordained by the nature of
intelligence itself. As noted earlier, greater intelligence
means a prolonged period of infant dependency, a greater need
for a learned behavioral repertoire, and a general trend for
social living to support the first two. The complexities of
social life, the differential access to resources, and mating
opportunities that accompany high levels of social skill all
place considerable selective pressure on increased intelligence
and, to some extent sociability. Ethological studies indicate
that any organism whose behavior puts the group at risk suffers
exclusion, injury and/or a loss of mating opportunities.

This model would seem to have some utility for conjecturing
about the nature of Extraterrestrial intelligence and attitudes.
It seems likely that any intelligence that evolves in a social
unit will be affected by the minimal functional requirements
involved in group cooperation and cohesion. The result will
likely be an organism that has serious constraints on agonistic
behavior and an ability to engage in cooperative endeavors. This
scenario is markedly more hopeful than the one suggested above
for intelligent predators, but it would still be wise to
consider the probable nature of social behavior, for there are
often marked differences between in-group behavior and that
directed toward outsiders.

"Only a zit on the wart on the heinie of progress." Copyright
1992, Frank Rice

Terry W. Colvin, Sierra Vista, Arizona (USA

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