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Analyzing insect movement as a correlated random walk

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This paper develops a procedure for quantifying movement sequences in terms of move length and turning angle probability distributions. By assuming that movement is a correlated random walk, we derive a formula that relates expected square displacements to the number of consecutive moves. We show this displacement formula can be used to highlight the consequences of different searching behaviors (i.e. different probability distributions of turning angles or move lengths). Observations of Pieris rapae (cabbage white butterfly) flight and Battus philenor (pipe-vine swallowtail) crawling are analyzed as a correlated random walk. The formula that we derive aptly predicts that net displacements of ovipositing cabbage white butterflies. In other circumstances, however, net displacements are not well-described by our correlated random walk formula; in these examples movement must represent a more complicated process than a simple correlated random walk. We suggest that progress might be made by analyzing these more complicated cases in terms of higher order markov processes.

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Kareiva, P.M., Shigesada, N. Analyzing insect movement as a correlated random walk. Oecologia 56, 234–238 (1983).

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