Scale-free foraging by primates emerges from their interaction with a complex environment

Proc Biol Sci. 2006 Jul 22;273(1595):1743-50. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2005.3462.


Scale-free foraging patterns are widespread among animals. These may be the outcome of an optimal searching strategy to find scarce, randomly distributed resources, but a less explored alternative is that this behaviour may result from the interaction of foraging animals with a particular distribution of resources. We introduce a simple foraging model where individual primates follow mental maps and choose their displacements according to a maximum efficiency criterion, in a spatially disordered environment containing many trees with a heterogeneous size distribution. We show that a particular tree-size frequency distribution induces non-Gaussian movement patterns with multiple spatial scales (Lévy walks). These results are consistent with field observations of tree-size variation and spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi) foraging patterns. We discuss the consequences that our results may have for the patterns of seed dispersal by foraging primates.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cebidae / physiology*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Homing Behavior
  • Models, Biological
  • Primates / physiology