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Scaling laws of ambush predator 'waiting' behaviour are tuned to a common ecology

Scaling laws of ambush predator 'waiting' behaviour are tuned to a common ecology
Scaling laws of ambush predator 'waiting' behaviour are tuned to a common ecology
The decisions animals make about how long to wait between activities can determine the success of diverse behaviours such as foraging, group formation or risk avoidance. Remarkably, for diverse animal species, including humans, spontaneous patterns of waiting times show random ‘burstiness’ that appears scale-invariant across a broad set of scales. However, a general theory linking this phenomenon across the animal kingdom currently lacks an ecological basis. Here, we demonstrate from tracking the activities of 15 sympatric predator species (cephalopods, sharks, skates and teleosts) under natural and controlled conditions that burstywaiting times are an intrinsic spontaneous behaviour well approximated by heavy-tailed (power-law) models over data ranges up to four orders of magnitude. Scaling exponents quantifying ratios of frequent short to rare very long waits are species-specific, being determined by traits such as foragingmode (active versusambush predation), bodysize and prey preference. A stochastic–deterministic decision model reproduced the empirical waiting time scaling and species-specific exponents, indicating that apparently complex scaling can emerge from simple decisions. Results indicate temporal power-law scaling is a behavioural ‘rule of thumb’ that is tuned to species’ ecological traits, implying a common pattern may have naturally evolved that optimizes move–wait decisions in less predictable natural environments.
movement ecology, foraging strategy, search, random walk, intermittence, human dynamics
0962-8452
20132997
Wearmouth, V.J.
61021c4d-d838-45c7-918f-f8ade4f9d895
McHugh, M.J.
dc3dd05a-b139-4ec2-9516-2bb507878a77
Humphries, N.E.
4cfb2dc9-9f0b-4be9-943e-dfa9ce9225fc
Naegelen, A.
fdb47299-6fcf-47fc-8e6c-3079a15e67d4
Ahmed, M.Z.
faca56e0-fcf3-4287-aea4-3cafd188a2f6
Southall, E.J.
c34cff1a-3d01-4ec0-8a78-2b7c07ea4920
Reynolds, A.M.
760cb232-6d6c-439a-b26b-9f3a7f30ebc5
Sims, D.W.
7234b444-25e2-4bd5-8348-a1c142d0cf81
Wearmouth, V.J.
61021c4d-d838-45c7-918f-f8ade4f9d895
McHugh, M.J.
dc3dd05a-b139-4ec2-9516-2bb507878a77
Humphries, N.E.
4cfb2dc9-9f0b-4be9-943e-dfa9ce9225fc
Naegelen, A.
fdb47299-6fcf-47fc-8e6c-3079a15e67d4
Ahmed, M.Z.
faca56e0-fcf3-4287-aea4-3cafd188a2f6
Southall, E.J.
c34cff1a-3d01-4ec0-8a78-2b7c07ea4920
Reynolds, A.M.
760cb232-6d6c-439a-b26b-9f3a7f30ebc5
Sims, D.W.
7234b444-25e2-4bd5-8348-a1c142d0cf81

Wearmouth, V.J., McHugh, M.J., Humphries, N.E., Naegelen, A., Ahmed, M.Z., Southall, E.J., Reynolds, A.M. and Sims, D.W. (2014) Scaling laws of ambush predator 'waiting' behaviour are tuned to a common ecology. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 281 (1782), 20132997. (doi:10.1098/rspb.2013.2997).

Record type: Article

Abstract

The decisions animals make about how long to wait between activities can determine the success of diverse behaviours such as foraging, group formation or risk avoidance. Remarkably, for diverse animal species, including humans, spontaneous patterns of waiting times show random ‘burstiness’ that appears scale-invariant across a broad set of scales. However, a general theory linking this phenomenon across the animal kingdom currently lacks an ecological basis. Here, we demonstrate from tracking the activities of 15 sympatric predator species (cephalopods, sharks, skates and teleosts) under natural and controlled conditions that burstywaiting times are an intrinsic spontaneous behaviour well approximated by heavy-tailed (power-law) models over data ranges up to four orders of magnitude. Scaling exponents quantifying ratios of frequent short to rare very long waits are species-specific, being determined by traits such as foragingmode (active versusambush predation), bodysize and prey preference. A stochastic–deterministic decision model reproduced the empirical waiting time scaling and species-specific exponents, indicating that apparently complex scaling can emerge from simple decisions. Results indicate temporal power-law scaling is a behavioural ‘rule of thumb’ that is tuned to species’ ecological traits, implying a common pattern may have naturally evolved that optimizes move–wait decisions in less predictable natural environments.

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Published date: 3 June 2014
Keywords: movement ecology, foraging strategy, search, random walk, intermittence, human dynamics
Organisations: Ocean and Earth Science

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 365404
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/365404
ISSN: 0962-8452
PURE UUID: 3978a31e-cc6d-41d0-85ad-8e8293d647e3

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Date deposited: 03 Jun 2014 14:38
Last modified: 16 Jul 2019 21:04

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Contributors

Author: V.J. Wearmouth
Author: M.J. McHugh
Author: N.E. Humphries
Author: A. Naegelen
Author: M.Z. Ahmed
Author: E.J. Southall
Author: A.M. Reynolds
Author: D.W. Sims

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