We investigated the relationship between the dispersal potential of a hominin population, its local-scale foraging strategies, and the characteristics of the resource environment using an agent-based modeling approach. In previous work we demonstrated that natural selection can favor a relatively low capacity for assessing and predicting the quality of the resource environment, especially when the distribution of resources is highly clustered. That work also suggested that the more knowledge foraging populations had about their environment, the less likely they were to abandon the landscape they know and disperse into novel territory. The present study gives agents new individual and social strategies for learning about their environment. For both individual and social learning, natural selection favors decreased levels of environmental knowledge, particularly in low-heterogeneity environments. Social acquisition of detailed environmental knowledge results in crowding of agents, which reduces available reproductive space and relative fitness. Agents with less environmental knowledge move away from resource clusters and into areas with more space available for reproduction. These results suggest that, rather than being a requirement for successful dispersal, environmental knowledge strengthens the ties to particular locations and significantly reduces the dispersal potential as a result. The evolved level of environmental knowledge in a population depends on the characteristics of the resource environment and affects the dispersal capacity of the population.
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Vol. 87 • No. 3