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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Jan 14;111(2):728-33. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1318616111. Epub 2013 Dec 23.

Evidence of Levy walk foraging patterns in human hunter-gatherers.

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School of Anthropology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721.


When searching for food, many organisms adopt a superdiffusive, scale-free movement pattern called a Lévy walk, which is considered optimal when foraging for heterogeneously located resources with little prior knowledge of distribution patterns [Viswanathan GM, da Luz MGE, Raposo EP, Stanley HE (2011) The Physics of Foraging: An Introduction to Random Searches and Biological Encounters]. Although memory of food locations and higher cognition may limit the benefits of random walk strategies, no studies to date have fully explored search patterns in human foraging. Here, we show that human hunter-gatherers, the Hadza of northern Tanzania, perform Lévy walks in nearly one-half of all foraging bouts. Lévy walks occur when searching for a wide variety of foods from animal prey to underground tubers, suggesting that, even in the most cognitively complex forager on Earth, such patterns are essential to understanding elementary foraging mechanisms. This movement pattern may be fundamental to how humans experience and interact with the world across a wide range of ecological contexts, and it may be adaptive to food distribution patterns on the landscape, which previous studies suggested for organisms with more limited cognition. Additionally, Lévy walks may have become common early in our genus when hunting and gathering arose as a major foraging strategy, playing an important role in the evolution of human mobility.


Brownian motion; Lévy flight; optimal foraging; scale invariance; superdiffusion

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