Lévy Walks Evolve Through Interaction Between Movement and Environmental Complexity

Ecological theory predicts that animal movement is shaped by its efficiency of resource acquisition. Focusing solely on efficiency, however, ignores the fact that animal activity can affect resource availability and distribution.

 

In this article published in Science on 24 June 2011, the authors show that feedback between individual behavior and environmental complexity can explain movement strategies in mussels. Specifically, experiments show that mussels use a Lévy walk during the formation of spatially patterned beds, and models reveal that this Lévy movement accelerates pattern formation. The emergent patterning in mussel beds, in turn, improves individual fitness. These results suggest that Lévy walks evolved as a result of the selective advantage conferred by autonomously generated, emergent spatial patterns in mussel beds. Our results emphasize that an interaction between individual selection and habitat complexity shapes animal movement in natural systems. Board member of the Wadden Academy Peter Herman is co-author of this article.

More information about this article on the Science website.