Foraging decisions among Aché hunter-gatherers: New data and implications for optimal foraging models

Kim Hill, Hillard Kaplan, Kristen Hawkes, A. Magdalena Hurtado

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

182 Scopus citations


This article summarizes 5 years of research on resource choice and foraging strategy among Ache foragers in eastern Paraguay. Successes and failures of simple models from optimal foraging theory (OFT) are discussed and revisions are suggested in order to bring the models in line with empirical evidence from the Ache. The following conclusions emerge: (1) Energetic returns from various alternative resources and foraging strategies is probably the best single predictor of foraging patterns. (2) Nutrient constraints should be added only when they significantly improve the predictive power of the model. Importance of meat versus vegetable resources may be one important modification based on nutrients that enhances the ability of OFT models to account for empirical reality in human foragers. (3) Men's and women's abilities and foraging patterns differ enough that they should be treated separately in all OFT analyses. (4) Opportunity costs associated with resources that are processed when foraging is not possible may be sufficiently low to predict that high processing time resources will be included in the optimal diet even when their associated return rates (including processing) are lower than mean foraging returns. (5) When food sharing is extensive and foraging bands include several adult males and females, foragers may not need to modify foraging strategies in other ways in order to reduce the risk of not eating on some days.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-36
Number of pages36
JournalEthology and Sociobiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1987
Externally publishedYes


  • Foraging models
  • Hunter-gatherers
  • South America

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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