Humans, when hunting or foraging, move in same pattern animals use

Dec. 23, 2013 at 7:49 PM
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PHOENIX, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- A mathematical model of the foraging behavior of animals from sharks to honey bees can describe human hunter-gatherer movement as well, U.S. scientists say.

The mathematical pattern of movement called a Levy walk that appears to be ubiquitous in animals has also been found in the Hadza people of Tanzania, one of the last hunter-gatherer tribes on Earth, the University of Arizona reported Monday.

"Scientists have been interested in characterizing how animals search for a long time," UA anthropology Professor David Raichlen said, "so we decided to look at whether human hunter-gatherers use similar patterns."

The Hadza are one of the last groups on Earth to still forage on foot with traditional methods.

"If you want to understand human hunter-gatherer movement, you have to work with a group like the Hadza," Raichlen said.

Tribe members wore wristwatches with GPS units allowing the researchers to track their movement while on hunting or foraging sessions.

The dominant theme of their foraging movements was found to be a Levy walk, the same pattern used by many other animals on a search for food.

The Levy walk involves a series of short movements in one area and then a longer trek to another area.

It doesn't mean humans don't consciously decide where they are going, Raichlen said. "We definitely use memories and cues from the environment as we search," he explained, "but this pattern seems to emerge in the process."

Human movement patterns can help in understanding how humans transported raw materials in the past, how our home ranges expanded and how we interact with our environment today, he said.

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