How many animals really do the Lévy walk?

Ecology. 2007 Aug;88(8):1962-9. doi: 10.1890/06-1769.1.


Lévy walks (LW) are superdiffusive and scale-free random walks that have recently emerged as a new conceptual tool for modeling animal search paths. They have been claimed to be more efficient than the "classical" random walks, and they also seem able to account for the actual search patterns of various species. This suggests that many animals may move using a LW process. LW patterns look like the actual search patterns displayed by animals foraging in a patchy environment, where extensive and intensive searching modes alternate, and which can be generated by a mixture of classical random walks. In this context, even elementary composite Brownian walks are more efficient than LW but may be confounded with them because they present apparent move-length-heavy tail distributions and superdiffusivity. The move-length "survival" distribution (i.e., the cumulative number of moves greater than any given threshold) appears to be a better means to highlight a LW pattern. Even once such a pattern has been clearly identified, it remains to determine how it was actually generated, because a LW pattern is not necessarily produced by a LW process but may emerge from the way the animal interacted with the environment structure through more classical movement processes. In any case, emergent movement patterns should not be confused with the processes that gave rise to them.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Ecosystem
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Flight, Animal / physiology*
  • Homing Behavior / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Movement
  • Spatial Behavior / physiology*
  • Species Specificity