Walking the walk: What sharks, honeybees and humans have in common


A research team led by UA anthropologist David Raichlen has found that the Hadza tribe's movements while foraging can be described by a mathematical pattern called a Lévy walk — a pattern that also is found in the movements of many other animals.

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.

Written By: Shelley Littin
continue to source article at sciencedaily.com


  1. Maybe there is some inherent pattern, or maybe human trackers learned and copied patterns from other predators.

    Sometimes Hadza hunters steal meat from animals that lions have killed after tracking the pride to the kill. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVqQMwSSWyg

    This gives an insight into armed humans, as the top predator. The lions are prepared to lose part of their kill to avoid a fight.

  2. I can’t see that this is the same for humans on one hand and sharks and bees on the other hand. Both sharks and bees are able to follow “odor plumes.” That is, they detect the faint odor of blood or flowers (as the case may be) in the distance and follow increasing concentrations of these odors until they find the source. Certainly they may do a “Levy walk” at first and come upon something they can use–a sick fish or a colorful flower, but the odor plume is what mainly produces their living.

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