Skills, division of labour and economies of scale among Amazonian hunters and South Indian honey collectors.

Bibliographic Collection: 
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Hooper, Paul L; Demps, Kathryn; Gurven, Michael; Gerkey, Drew; Kaplan, Hillard S
Year of Publication: 2015
Journal: Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci
Volume: 370
Issue: 1683
Pagination: 20150008
Date Published: 2015 Dec 5
Publication Language: eng
ISSN: 1471-2970

In foraging and other productive activities, individuals make choices regarding whether and with whom to cooperate, and in what capacities. The size and composition of cooperative groups can be understood as a self-organized outcome of these choices, which are made under local ecological and social constraints. This article describes a theoretical framework for explaining the size and composition of foraging groups based on three principles: (i) the sexual division of labour; (ii) the intergenerational division of labour; and (iii) economies of scale in production. We test predictions from the theory with data from two field contexts: Tsimane' game hunters of lowland Bolivia, and Jenu Kuruba honey collectors of South India. In each case, we estimate the impacts of group size and individual group members' effort on group success. We characterize differences in the skill requirements of different foraging activities and show that individuals participate more frequently in activities in which they are more efficient. We evaluate returns to scale across different resource types and observe higher returns at larger group sizes in foraging activities (such as hunting large game) that benefit from coordinated and complementary roles. These results inform us that the foraging group size and composition are guided by the motivated choice of individuals on the basis of relative efficiency, benefits of cooperation, opportunity costs and other social considerations.

DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0008
Alternate Journal: Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond., B, Biol. Sci.