When to defend? Optimal Territoriality across the Numic Homeland


Research exploring the complex human decisions that lead to territoriality have largely focused on defensibility. Here we explore territoriality using an ecological and evolutionary model from behavioral ecology: the marginal value theorem (MVT). Based on the principal of diminishing returns, the MVT predicts that the utility of a plot of land will decrease with each additional plot, therefore people should defend an area only at a threshold when it becomes energetically beneficial within the local socioecological context. Based on variation in environmental productivity and population density, we suggest these decisions will create an optimal territory size that should be smaller in high productivity areas with denser populations, and larger in low productivity, low population areas, with the former allowing greater opportunities and payoffs for defense. Numic foragers of the Great Basin and surrounding areas provide an illustrative case study to validate the basic ecological model of economic defensibility, and assess predictions about when hunter-gathers will likely start defending resources. In this paper we explore how environmental productivity, population density, and home range size all play a critical role in determining when a population should defend their territory.

Cite this Record

When to defend? Optimal Territoriality across the Numic Homeland. Ashley Parker, Christopher Parker, Brian Codding. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430895)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -122.761; min lat: 29.917 ; max long: -109.27; max lat: 42.553 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17473