Variation in individual walking behaviour creates the impression of a Lévy flight

Sergei Petrovskii, Alla Mashanova, Vincent Jansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Citations (Scopus)


Many animal paths have an intricate statistical pattern that manifests itself as a power law-like tail in the distribution of movement lengths. Such distributions occur if individuals move according to a Lévy flight (a mode of dispersal in which the distance moved follows a power law), or if there is variation between individuals such that some individuals move much farther than others.
Distinguishing between these two mechanisms requires large quantities of data, which are not available for most species studied.
Here, we analyze paths of black bean aphids (Aphis fabae Scopoli) and show that individual animals move in a predominantly diffusive manner, but that, because of variation at population level, they collectively appear to display superdiffusive characteristics, often interpreted as being characteristic for a Lévy flight.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8704-8707
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2011


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