Foraging success of biological Lévy flights recorded in situ

Edited by Peter J. Bickel, University of California, Berkeley, CA, and approved March 15, 2012 (received for review December 21, 2011)
April 23, 2012
109 (19) 7169-7174

Abstract

It is an open question how animals find food in dynamic natural environments where they possess little or no knowledge of where resources are located. Foraging theory predicts that in environments with sparsely distributed target resources, where forager knowledge about resources’ locations is incomplete, Lévy flight movements optimize the success of random searches. However, the putative success of Lévy foraging has been demonstrated only in model simulations. Here, we use high-temporal-resolution Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking of wandering (Diomedea exulans) and black-browed albatrosses (Thalassarche melanophrys) with simultaneous recording of prey captures, to show that both species exhibit Lévy and Brownian movement patterns. We find that total prey masses captured by wandering albatrosses during Lévy movements exceed daily energy requirements by nearly fourfold, and approached yields by Brownian movements in other habitats. These results, together with our reanalysis of previously published albatross data, overturn the notion that albatrosses do not exhibit Lévy patterns during foraging, and demonstrate that Lévy flights of predators in dynamic natural environments present a beneficial alternative strategy to simple, spatially intensive behaviors. Our findings add support to the possibility that biological Lévy flight may have naturally evolved as a search strategy in response to sparse resources and scant information.

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Acknowledgments.

A. Edwards, R. Phillips, and the British Antarctic Survey are thanked for access to their 2004 tracking data. We thank the Institut Polaire Francais Paul Emile Victor (IPEV) and the Terres Australes et Antarctiques Francaises (TAAF) for their logistical support in the field and the many field workers involved in the deployment of loggers and in the tracking programmes since 2002. Funding for data analysis was provided by the United Kingdom Natural Environment Research Council’s Oceans 2025 Strategic Research Programme (Theme 6 Science for Sustainable Marine Resources) in which D.W.S. is a principal investigator, and by a Marine Biological Association Senior Research Fellowship and joint academic appointment with the University of Southampton, United Kingdom (also to D.W.S.). N.Q. was funded by a Fundacao para a Ciencia e a Tecnologia (FCT) scholarship SFRH/BPD/70070/2010. The field studies at the Crozet and Kerguelen islands are part of the long-term monitoring programme on the demography and foraging ecology of marine predators supported by IPEV Program no. 109 to H.W.

Supporting Information

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Supporting Information

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Information & Authors

Information

Published in

Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Vol. 109 | No. 19
May 8, 2012
PubMed: 22529349

Classifications

Submission history

Published online: April 23, 2012
Published in issue: May 8, 2012

Keywords

  1. optimal foraging
  2. organism
  3. predator-prey
  4. telemetry
  5. evolution

Acknowledgments

A. Edwards, R. Phillips, and the British Antarctic Survey are thanked for access to their 2004 tracking data. We thank the Institut Polaire Francais Paul Emile Victor (IPEV) and the Terres Australes et Antarctiques Francaises (TAAF) for their logistical support in the field and the many field workers involved in the deployment of loggers and in the tracking programmes since 2002. Funding for data analysis was provided by the United Kingdom Natural Environment Research Council’s Oceans 2025 Strategic Research Programme (Theme 6 Science for Sustainable Marine Resources) in which D.W.S. is a principal investigator, and by a Marine Biological Association Senior Research Fellowship and joint academic appointment with the University of Southampton, United Kingdom (also to D.W.S.). N.Q. was funded by a Fundacao para a Ciencia e a Tecnologia (FCT) scholarship SFRH/BPD/70070/2010. The field studies at the Crozet and Kerguelen islands are part of the long-term monitoring programme on the demography and foraging ecology of marine predators supported by IPEV Program no. 109 to H.W.

Notes

This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.

Authors

Affiliations

Nicolas E. Humphries
Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PB, United Kingdom;
School of Marine Science and Engineering, Marine Institute, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth PL4 8AA, United Kingdom;
Henri Weimerskirch
Centre d’Études Biologiques de Chizé, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 79360 Villiers en Bois, France;
Nuno Queiroz
Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PB, United Kingdom;
CIBIO-Universidade do Porto, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, Campus Agrário de Vairão, Rua Padre Armando Quintas, 4485-668 Vairão, Portugal;
Emily J. Southall
Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PB, United Kingdom;
David W. Sims1 [email protected]
Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PB, United Kingdom;
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton, Waterfront Campus, European Way, Southampton SO14 3ZH, United Kingdom; and
Centre for Biological Sciences, Building 85, University of Southampton, Highfield Campus, Southampton SO17 1BJ, United Kingdom

Notes

1
To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: [email protected].
Author contributions: D.W.S. designed research; N.E.H., H.W., and D.W.S. performed research; N.E.H., H.W., N.Q., E.J.S., and D.W.S. analyzed data; and N.E.H. and D.W.S. wrote the paper.

Competing Interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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    Foraging success of biological Lévy flights recorded in situ
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
    • Vol. 109
    • No. 19
    • pp. 7127-7586

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