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The population ecology of hunter-gatherers and their prey

  • Author(s): Winterhalder, B;
  • Baillargeon, W;
  • Cappelletto, F;
  • Randolph Daniel, I;
  • Prescott, C
  • et al.

In this paper we combine foraging theory and population biology models to simulate dynamic relationships between hunter-gatherers and their prey resources. Hunter-gatherer population growth responds to the net marginal rate of foraging; prey population growth responds logistically to exploitation. Thus conceived, the relationship between forager and prey biomass is time-dependent and nonlinear. It changes from stable equilibrium to damped and stable cycles with modest adjustments of input parameters. And, it produces the largest sustainable human population at intermediate levels of individual work effort. At equilibrium the forager takes all prey types with a pursuit and handling rate greater than or equal to its maintenance foraging rate. The structural properties of the model compel us to reject standard anthropological interpretations of the carrying capacity concept; they provide new insights on old issues such as original affluence and intensification. Analysis of the interaction of human population, diet selection, and resource depletion requires microecological models in part because the relevant processes occur on time scales largely invisible to both ethnography and archaeology. © 1988.

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