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Movement Ecology

, 1:9

First Online: 14 October 2013Received: 14 April 2013Accepted: 12 August 2013


BackgroundThe Lévy flight foraging hypothesis predicts a transition from scale-free Lévy walk LW to scale-specific Brownian motion BM as an animal moves from resource-poor towards resource-rich environment. However, the LW-BM continuum implies a premise of memory-less search, which contradicts the cognitive capacity of vertebrates.

ResultsWe describe methods to test if apparent support for LW-BM transitions may rather be a statistical artifact from movement under varying intensity of site fidelity. A higher frequency of returns to previously visited patches stronger site fidelity may erroneously be interpreted as a switch from LW towards BM. Simulations of scale-free, memory-enhanced space use illustrate how the ratio between return events and scale-free exploratory movement translates to varying strength of site fidelity. An expanded analysis of GPS data of 18 female red deer, Cervus elaphus, strengthens previous empirical support of memory-enhanced and scale-free space use in a northern forest ecosystem.

ConclusionA statistical mechanical model architecture that describes foraging under environment-dependent variation of site fidelity may allow for higher realism of optimal search models and movement ecology in general, in particular for vertebrates with high cognitive capacity.

KeywordsOptimal foraging Lévy flight foraging hypothesis Memory-influenced movement Site fidelity Statistical mechanics of movement Scale-free space use Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-2051-3933-1-9 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Autor: Arild O Gautestad - Atle Mysterud


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