The Elements of Evolution (44-3) Foraging


Foraging is a universal behavior in motile organisms. Animals that hunt sparse prey over large areas often traverse terrain in a pattern known as a Lévy walk, which is characterized by several small steps interspersed with infrequent long steps.

This Markov process optimizes covering ground. Albatrosses searching for squid over the open ocean nowadays and sea urchins on the seabed 50 million years ago both took a Lévy walk.

The efficacy of a Lévy walk is appreciated by cells. Food is transported within a cell using the same mathematical pattern that animals employ when foraging.