Evidence for intermittency and a truncated power law from highly resolved aphid movement data
Power laws are increasingly used to describe animal movement. Despite this, the use of power laws has been criticized on both empirical and theoretical grounds, and alternative models based on extensions of conventional random walk theory (Brownian motion) have been suggested. In this paper, we analyse a large volume of data of aphid walking behaviour (65 068 data points), which provides a highly resolved dataset to investigate the pattern of movement. We show that aphid movement is intermittent - with alternations of a slow movement with frequent change of direction and a fast, relatively directed movement - and that the fast movement consists of two phases - a strongly directed phase that gradually changes into an uncorrelated random walk. By measuring the mean-squared displacement and the duration of non-stop movement episodes we found that both spatial and temporal aspects of aphid movement are best described using a truncated power law approach. We suggest that the observed spatial pattern arises from the duration of non-stop movement phases rather than from correlations in turning angles. We discuss the implications of these findings for interpreting movement data, such as distinguishing between movement and non-movement, and the effect of the range of data used in the analysis on the conclusions.