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Modern ecological research often involves the comparison of the usage of habitat types or food items to the availability of those resources to the animal. Widely used methods of determining preference from measurements of usage and availability depend critically on the array of components that the researcher, often with a degree of arbitrariness, deems available to the animal. This paper proposes a new method, based on ranks of components by usage and by availability. A virtue of the rank procedure is that it provides comparable results whether a questionable component is included or excluded from consideration. Statistical tests of significance are given for the method.
The paper also offers a hierarchical ordering of selection processes. This hierarchy resolves certain inconsistencies among studies of selection and is compatible with the analytic technique offered in the paper.