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Lévy or Not? Analysing Positional Data from Animal Movement Paths

Plank, Michael J and Auger-Méthé, Marie and Codling, Edward A (2013) 'Lévy or Not? Analysing Positional Data from Animal Movement Paths.' In: Lewis, MA and Maini, PK and Petrovskii, SV, (eds.) Dispersal, Individual Movement and Spatial Ecology. Lecture Notes in Mathematics . Springer, 33 - 52.

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The Lévy walk hypothesis asserts that the optimal search strategy for a forager under specific conditions is to make successive movement steps that have uniformly random directions and lengths drawn from a probability distribution that is heavy-tailed. This idea has generated a huge amount of interest, with numerous studies providing empirical evidence in support of the hypothesis and others criticising some of the methods employed in these. The most common method for identifying Lévy walk behaviour in movement data is to fit a set of candidate distributions to the observed step lengths using maximum likelihood methods. Commonly used candidate distributions are the exponential distribution and the power-law (Pareto) distribution, both on an infinite and a finite (truncated) range. Data sets for which the relative fit of a power-law distribution is better than that of an exponential are typically classified as Lévy walks. However, the movement pattern of the Lévy walk is similar to that of an animal that switches between two behavioural modes in a composite correlated random walk (CCRW) movement process. Recent studies have shown that standard approaches can misidentify the CCRW process as a Levy walk. This misidentification can be due to the methods used to sample and process the data, a failure to assess the absolute fit of the candidate distributions, or the lack of a strong alternative model. In this chapter, we simulate a CCRW process and show that including a composite exponential distribution in the set of candidate distributions can alleviate the problem of misidentification. However, in some cases sampling and processing of the CCRW data can cause a power-law distribution to have a better fit than a composite exponential. In such cases, the absolute goodness-of-fit of the power-law distribution is typically poor, indicating that none of the candidate distributions are a good model for the data. We discuss the relevance of these results for the analysis of empirical movement data.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Q Science > QL Zoology
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health > Mathematical Sciences, Department of
Depositing User: Edward Codling
Date Deposited: 05 Aug 2013 10:20
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2020 11:15

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