Scaling up animal movements in heterogeneous landscapes: the importance of behavior

Juan Manuel Morales (1,3) and Stephen P. Ellner (2,4)

1 Department of Zoology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA.
2 Biomathematics Program, Department of Statistics, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-8203, USA.
3 Present address: Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269, USA (
4 Present address: Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Corson Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca NY 14853-2701, USA (


Two major challenges of spatial ecology are understanding the effects of landscape heterogeneity on movement, and translating observations taken at small spatial and temporal scales into expected patterns at greater scales. Using a combination of computer simulations and micro-landscape experiments with Tribolium confusum beetles we found that conventional correlated random walk models with constant parameters severely underestimated spatial spread because organisms changed movement behaviors over time. However, a model incorporating behavioral heterogeneity between individuals, and within individuals over time, was able to account for observed patterns of spread. Our results suggest that the main challenge for scaling up movement patterns resides in the complexities of individual behavior rather than in the spatial structure of the landscape.

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