A mathematical pattern of movement called a Lévy walk describes the foraging behavior of animals from sharks to honey bees, and now for the first time has been shown to describe human hunter-gatherer movement as well. The study, led by University of Arizona anthropologist David Raichlen, was published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The Lévy walk pattern appears to be ubiquitous in animals, similar to the golden ratio, phi, a mathematical ratio that has been found to describe proportions in plants and animals throughout nature.
"Scientists have been interested in characterizing how animals search for a long time," said Raichlen, an associate professor in the UA School of Anthropology, "so we decided to look at whether human hunter-gatherers use similar patterns."
Funded by a National Science Foundation grant awarded to study co-author Herman Pontzer, Raichlen and his colleagues worked with the Hadza people of Tanzania.
The Hadza are one of the last big-game hunters in Africa, and 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.