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Signatures of chaos in animal search patterns

Reynolds, Andy M.Bartumeus, FredericKölzsch, Andreavan de Koppel, Johan.  Scientific Reports 6: 23492 (2016) DIGITAL.CSIC

One key objective of the emerging discipline of movement ecology is to link animal movement patterns to underlying biological processes, including those operating at the neurobiological level. Nonetheless, little is known about the physiological basis of animal movement patterns, and the underlying search behaviour. Here we demonstrate the hallmarks of chaotic dynamics in the movement patterns of mud snails (Hydrobia ulvae) moving in controlled experimental conditions, observed in the temporal dynamics of turning behaviour. Chaotic temporal dynamics are known to occur in pacemaker neurons in molluscs, but there have been no studies reporting on whether chaotic properties are manifest in the movement patterns of molluscs. Our results suggest that complex search patterns, like the Lévy walks made by mud snails, can have their mechanistic origins in chaotic neuronal processes. This possibility calls for new research on the coupling between neurobiology and motor properties.