Experimental evidence for inherent Lévy search behaviour in foraging animals

Andrea Kölzsch, Adriana Alzate, Frederic Bartumeus, Monique de Jager, Ellen J Weerman, Geerten M Hengeveld, Marc Naguib, Bart A Nolet, Johan van de Koppel

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40 Citations (Scopus)


Recently, Lévy walks have been put forward as a new paradigm for animal search and many cases have been made for its presence in nature. However, it remains debated whether Lévy walks are an inherent behavioural strategy or emerge from the animal reacting to its habitat. Here, we demonstrate signatures of Lévy behaviour in the search movement of mud snails (Hydrobia ulvae) based on a novel, direct assessment of movement properties in an experimental set-up using different food distributions. Our experimental data uncovered clusters of small movement steps alternating with long moves independent of food encounter and landscape complexity. Moreover, size distributions of these clusters followed truncated power laws. These two findings are characteristic signatures of mechanisms underlying inherent Lévy-like movement. Thus, our study provides clear experimental evidence that such multi-scale movement is an inherent behaviour rather than resulting from the animal interacting with its environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20150424
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences
Issue number1807
Publication statusPublished - 22-May-2015

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