3 years ago

Foraging motivation favors the occurrence of Lévy walks

Lévy walks are a property of random movements often observed among foraging animals (and humans), and they might confer some advantages for survival in an unpredictable environment, in comparison with Brownian walks. In animals with a nervous system, specific neurotransmitters associated with some psychological states could play a crucial role in controlling the occurrence of Lévy walks. We argue that incentive motivation, a dopamine-dependent process that in vertebrates makes rewards and their predictive conditioned stimuli attractive, has behavioral effects that may favor their occurrence: incentive motivation is higher when food is unpredictable and it strongly underpins foraging activity. An individual-based computer model is used to determine whether changes in incentive motivation can influence the probability that Lévy walks occur among foraging agents. Our results suggest that they are produced more often under an unpredictable than a predictable food access, and more often in strongly rather than weakly motivated foragers exposed to an unpredictable food access. Also, our motivational framework indicates that the occurrence of Lévy walks are correlated with, but not causally linked to, the number of food items consumed and the ability to store fat reserves. We conclude that Lévy walks can confer some advantages for survival in an unpredictable environment, provided that they appear in foragers with a high motivation to seek food.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0376635717304849

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