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Foraging patterns found in fossils

Nature volume 511, page 386 (24 July 2014) | Download Citation


Researchers have discovered the first fossil evidence of a type of search behaviour displayed by some modern animals when looking for food.

Animals that hunt sparse prey over large areas often move in patterns known as Lévy walks — characterized by numerous small steps interspersed with rare long jumps to optimize foraging. A team led by David Sims at the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth, UK, discovered the pattern in 50-million-year-old fossilized tracks made by an extinct sea urchin, Scolicia. Its movements resembled those of albatrosses searching for squid over an open ocean.

The sea urchins may have evolved this foraging strategy after global resource collapses made their food supplies sparse, the researchers say.

Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA (2014)

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