Some animal species increase resource acceptance rates in the presence of conspecifics. Such responses may be adaptive if the presence of conspecifics is a reliable indicator of resource quality. Similarly, these responses could represent an adaptive reduction in choosiness under high levels of scramble competition. Although high resource quality and high levels of scramble competition should both favor increased resource acceptance, the contexts in which the increase occurs should differ. In this paper, we tested the effect of social environment on egg-laying and aggressive behavior in the walnut fly, Rhagoletis juglandis, in multiple contexts to determine whether increased resource acceptance in the presence of conspecifics was better viewed as a response to increased host quality or increased competition. We found that grouped females oviposit more readily than isolated females when provided small (low-quality) artificial hosts but not when provided large (high-quality) artificial hosts, indicating that conspecific presence reduces choosiness. Increased resource acceptance was observed even when exposure to conspecifics was temporally or spatially separate from exposure to the resource. Finally, we found that individuals showed reduced aggression after being housed in groups, as expected under high levels of scramble competition. These results indicate that the pattern of resource acceptance in the presence of conspecifics may be better viewed as a response to increased scramble competition rather than as a response to public information about resource quality.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/jeremy-davis/12/