Combining animal movements and behavioural data to detect behavioural states

Ecol Lett. 2014 Oct;17(10):1228-37. doi: 10.1111/ele.12328. Epub 2014 Jul 14.


Animal movement paths show variation in space caused by qualitative shifts in behaviours. I present a method that (1) uses both movement path data and ancillary sensor data to detect natural breakpoints in animal behaviour and (2) groups these segments into different behavioural states. The method can also combine analyses of different path segments or paths from different individuals. It does not assume any underlying movement mechanism. I give an example with simulated data. I also show the effects of random variation, # of states and # of segments on this method. I present a case study of a fisher movement path spanning 8 days, which shows four distinct behavioural states divided into 28 path segments when only turning angles and speed were considered. When accelerometer data were added, the analysis shows seven distinct behavioural states divided into 41 path segments.

Keywords: Animal movement; behavioural states; breakpoints; correlated random walk; segments; spatial scale; turning angles.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Models, Biological
  • Motor Activity*