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J Theor Biol. 2006 May 7;240(1):126-35. Epub 2005 Oct 10.

Theory of home range estimation from displacement measurements of animal populations.

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  • 1Consortium of the Americas for Interdisciplinary Science and Department of Physics, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA.


A theory is provided for the estimation of home ranges of animals from displacement measurement procedures. The theoretical tool used is the Fokker-Planck equation, its characteristic quantities being the diffusion constant which describes the motion of the animals, and the attractive potential which addresses their tendency to live in restricted regions, e.g., near their burrows. The measurement technique is shown to correspond to the calculation of a certain kind of mean square displacement of the animals relevant to the specific probing window in space corresponding to the region of observation. The output of the theory is a sigmoid curve of the observable mean square displacement as a function of the ratio of distances characteristic of the home range and the measurement window, along with an explicit prescription to extract the home range from observations. Applications of the theory to rodent movement in Panama and New Mexico are pointed out. An analysis is given of the sensitivity of our theory to the choice of the confining potential via the use of various representative cases. A comparison is provided between home range size inferred from our method and from other procedures employed in the literature. Consequences of home range overlap are also discussed.

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