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Environmental context explains Lévy and Brownian movement patterns of marine predators

Environmental context explains Lévy and Brownian movement patterns of marine predators
Environmental context explains Lévy and Brownian movement patterns of marine predators
An optimal search theory, the so-called Lévy-flight foraging hypothesis, predicts that predators should adopt search strategies known as Lévy flights where prey is sparse and distributed unpredictably, but that Brownian movement is sufficiently efficient for locating abundant prey. Empirical studies have generated controversy because the accuracy of statistical methods that have been used to identify Lévy behaviour has recently been questioned. Consequently, whether foragers exhibit Lévy flights in the wild remains unclear. Crucially, moreover, it has not been tested whether observed movement patterns across natural landscapes having different expected resource distributions conform to the theory’s central predictions. Here we use maximum-likelihood methods to test for Lévy patterns in relation to environmental gradients in the largest animal movement data set assembled for this purpose. Strong support was found for Lévy search patterns across 14 species of open-ocean predatory fish (sharks, tuna, billfish and ocean sunfish), with some individuals switching between Lévy and Brownian movement as they traversed different habitat types. We tested the spatial occurrence of these two principal patterns and found Lévy behaviour to be associated with less productive waters (sparser prey) and Brownian movements to be associated with productive shelf or convergence-front habitats (abundant prey). These results are consistent with the Lévy-flight foraging hypothesis1, supporting the contention that organism search strategies naturally evolved in such a way that they exploit optimal Lévy patterns.

0028-0836
1066-1069
Humphries, Nicolas E.
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Queiroz, Nuno
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Dyer, Jennifer R.M.
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Pade, Nicolas G.
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Musyl, Michael K.
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Schaefer, Kurt M.
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Fuller, Daniel W.
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Brunnschweiler, Juerg M.
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Doyle, Thomas K.
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Houghton, Jonathan D.R.
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Hays, Graeme C.
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Jones, Catherine S.
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Noble, Leslie R.
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Wearmouth, Victoria J.
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Southall, Emily J.
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Sims, David W.
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Humphries, Nicolas E.
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Queiroz, Nuno
1b1b741e-a2ee-49c2-bbcc-2864044ba8e3
Dyer, Jennifer R.M.
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Pade, Nicolas G.
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Musyl, Michael K.
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Schaefer, Kurt M.
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Fuller, Daniel W.
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Brunnschweiler, Juerg M.
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Doyle, Thomas K.
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Houghton, Jonathan D.R.
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Hays, Graeme C.
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Jones, Catherine S.
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Noble, Leslie R.
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Wearmouth, Victoria J.
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Southall, Emily J.
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Sims, David W.
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Humphries, Nicolas E., Queiroz, Nuno, Dyer, Jennifer R.M., Pade, Nicolas G., Musyl, Michael K., Schaefer, Kurt M., Fuller, Daniel W., Brunnschweiler, Juerg M., Doyle, Thomas K., Houghton, Jonathan D.R., Hays, Graeme C., Jones, Catherine S., Noble, Leslie R., Wearmouth, Victoria J., Southall, Emily J. and Sims, David W. (2010) Environmental context explains Lévy and Brownian movement patterns of marine predators. Nature, 465 (7301), 1066-1069. (doi:10.1038/nature09116).

Record type: Article

Abstract

An optimal search theory, the so-called Lévy-flight foraging hypothesis, predicts that predators should adopt search strategies known as Lévy flights where prey is sparse and distributed unpredictably, but that Brownian movement is sufficiently efficient for locating abundant prey. Empirical studies have generated controversy because the accuracy of statistical methods that have been used to identify Lévy behaviour has recently been questioned. Consequently, whether foragers exhibit Lévy flights in the wild remains unclear. Crucially, moreover, it has not been tested whether observed movement patterns across natural landscapes having different expected resource distributions conform to the theory’s central predictions. Here we use maximum-likelihood methods to test for Lévy patterns in relation to environmental gradients in the largest animal movement data set assembled for this purpose. Strong support was found for Lévy search patterns across 14 species of open-ocean predatory fish (sharks, tuna, billfish and ocean sunfish), with some individuals switching between Lévy and Brownian movement as they traversed different habitat types. We tested the spatial occurrence of these two principal patterns and found Lévy behaviour to be associated with less productive waters (sparser prey) and Brownian movements to be associated with productive shelf or convergence-front habitats (abundant prey). These results are consistent with the Lévy-flight foraging hypothesis1, supporting the contention that organism search strategies naturally evolved in such a way that they exploit optimal Lévy patterns.

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Published date: 24 June 2010
Organisations: Ocean and Earth Science

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Local EPrints ID: 340115
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/340115
ISSN: 0028-0836
PURE UUID: b6862426-f0ed-4b46-9be3-fcd0d4f8118e

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Date deposited: 11 Jun 2012 15:10
Last modified: 09 Dec 2019 20:07

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Contributors

Author: Nicolas E. Humphries
Author: Nuno Queiroz
Author: Jennifer R.M. Dyer
Author: Nicolas G. Pade
Author: Michael K. Musyl
Author: Kurt M. Schaefer
Author: Daniel W. Fuller
Author: Juerg M. Brunnschweiler
Author: Thomas K. Doyle
Author: Jonathan D.R. Houghton
Author: Graeme C. Hays
Author: Catherine S. Jones
Author: Leslie R. Noble
Author: Victoria J. Wearmouth
Author: Emily J. Southall
Author: David W. Sims

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