Most animals spend the majority of their waking hours searching for, catching, or eating their food. How do they balance the energy they expend versus the energy they gain? One possible explanation is described by the optimality hypothesis, the idea that animals tend to behave in a way that maximizes food gathering while minimizing effort and exposure to predators.
For example, researchers have watched crows choose a large whelk (a snail-like mollusk) fly with it to a height of about 5 m (16 ft), and then drop it onto a rock. If the shell breaks, the crow eats the whelk. If the shell fails to break, the crow picks it up and drops it again. The optimality hypothesis would predict that dropping a whelk a second time is more likely to provide a meal than is searching for another large whelk. Experiments confirm that crow behavior optimizes nutrition versus effort expended.
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