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Scaling laws of marine predator search behaviour


Sims, DW and Southall, EJ and Humphries, NE and Hays, GC and Bradshaw, CJA and Pitchford, JW and James, A and Ahmed, MZ and Brierley, AS and Hindell, MA and Morritt, D and Musyl, MK and Righton, D and Shepard, ELC and Wearmouth, VJ and Wilson, RP and Witt, MJ and Metcalfe, JD, Scaling laws of marine predator search behaviour, Nature, 451, (7182) pp. 1098-1103. ISSN 0028-0836 (2008) [Refereed Article]

DOI: doi:10.1038/nature06518


Many free-ranging predators have to make foraging decisions with little, if any, knowledge of present resource distribution and availability. The optimal search strategy they should use to maximize encounter rates with prey in heterogeneous natural environments remains a largely unresolved issue in ecology. Lévy walks are specialized random walks giving rise to fractal movement trajectories that may represent an optimal solution for searching complex landscapes. However, the adaptive significance of this putative strategy in response to natural prey distributions remains untested. Here we analyse over a million movement displacements recorded from animal-attached electronic tags to show that diverse marine predators-sharks, bony fishes, sea turtles and penguins-exhibit Lévy-walk-like behaviour close to a theoretical optimum. Prey density distributions also display Lévy-like fractal patterns, suggesting response movements by predators to prey distributions. Simulations show that predators have higher encounter rates when adopting Lévy-type foraging in natural-like prey fields compared with purely random landscapes. This is consistent with the hypothesis that observed search patterns are adapted to observed statistical patterns of the landscape. This may explain why Lévy-like behaviour seems to be widespread among diverse organisms, from microbes to humans, as a 'rule' that evolved in response to patchy resource distributions. ©2008 Nature Publishing Group.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Environmental management
Research Field:Wildlife and habitat management
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Coastal and estuarine systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of coastal and estuarine ecosystems
UTAS Author:Hindell, MA (Professor Mark Hindell)
ID Code:55885
Year Published:2008
Web of Science® Times Cited:688
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2009-03-13
Last Modified:2015-01-27

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