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Scaling laws of marine predator search behaviour

Scaling laws of marine predator search behaviour
Scaling laws of marine predator search behaviour
Many free-ranging predators have to make foraging decisions with little, if any, knowledge of present resource distribution and availability1. The optimal search strategy they should use to maximize encounter rates with prey in heterogeneous natural environments remains a largely unresolved issue in ecology1, 2, 3. Lévy walks4 are specialized random walks giving rise to fractal movement trajectories that may represent an optimal solution for searching complex landscapes5. However, the adaptive significance of this putative strategy in response to natural prey distributions remains untested6, 7. 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 optimum2. 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 organisms3, from microbes8 to humans9, as a 'rule' that evolved in response to patchy resource distributions.

0028-0836
1098-1102
Sims, David W.
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Southall, Emily J.
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Humphries, Nicolas E.
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Hays, Graeme C.
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Bradshaw, Corey J.A.
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Pitchford, Jonathan W.
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James, Alex
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Ahmed, Mohammed Z.
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Brierley, Andrew S.
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Hindell, Mark A.
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Morritt, David
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Musyl, Michael K.
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Righton, David
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Shepard, Emily L.C.
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Wearmouth, Victoria J.
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Wilson, Rory P.
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Witt, Matthew J.
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Metcalfe, Julian D.
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Sims, David W.
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Southall, Emily J.
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Humphries, Nicolas E.
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Hays, Graeme C.
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Bradshaw, Corey J.A.
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Pitchford, Jonathan W.
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James, Alex
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Ahmed, Mohammed Z.
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Brierley, Andrew S.
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Hindell, Mark A.
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Morritt, David
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Musyl, Michael K.
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Righton, David
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Shepard, Emily L.C.
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Wearmouth, Victoria J.
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Wilson, Rory P.
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Witt, Matthew J.
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Metcalfe, Julian D.
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Sims, David W., Southall, Emily J., Humphries, Nicolas E., Hays, Graeme C., Bradshaw, Corey J.A., Pitchford, Jonathan W., James, Alex, Ahmed, Mohammed Z., Brierley, Andrew S., Hindell, Mark A., Morritt, David, Musyl, Michael K., Righton, David, Shepard, Emily L.C., Wearmouth, Victoria J., Wilson, Rory P., Witt, Matthew J. and Metcalfe, Julian D. (2008) Scaling laws of marine predator search behaviour. Nature, 451 (7182), 1098-1102. (doi:10.1038/nature06518).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Many free-ranging predators have to make foraging decisions with little, if any, knowledge of present resource distribution and availability1. The optimal search strategy they should use to maximize encounter rates with prey in heterogeneous natural environments remains a largely unresolved issue in ecology1, 2, 3. Lévy walks4 are specialized random walks giving rise to fractal movement trajectories that may represent an optimal solution for searching complex landscapes5. However, the adaptive significance of this putative strategy in response to natural prey distributions remains untested6, 7. 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 optimum2. 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 organisms3, from microbes8 to humans9, as a 'rule' that evolved in response to patchy resource distributions.

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Published date: 28 February 2008
Organisations: Ocean and Earth Science

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Local EPrints ID: 340117
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/340117
ISSN: 0028-0836
PURE UUID: 885511f4-3a3b-4b2c-b07d-fcbd400ceb6d

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Date deposited: 11 Jun 2012 15:29
Last modified: 16 Dec 2019 20:38

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Contributors

Author: David W. Sims
Author: Emily J. Southall
Author: Nicolas E. Humphries
Author: Graeme C. Hays
Author: Corey J.A. Bradshaw
Author: Jonathan W. Pitchford
Author: Alex James
Author: Mohammed Z. Ahmed
Author: Andrew S. Brierley
Author: Mark A. Hindell
Author: David Morritt
Author: Michael K. Musyl
Author: David Righton
Author: Emily L.C. Shepard
Author: Victoria J. Wearmouth
Author: Rory P. Wilson
Author: Matthew J. Witt
Author: Julian D. Metcalfe

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