Vigilant Behaviour: Predictability or Randomness? Spectral Analysis of Series of Scan Durations and their Relationship with Inter-scan Intervals


C.N.R.S., F-46320 Sonac.


While feeding, many animals frequently look up and visually scan their environment. Using spectral analysis of continuous series of scan durations from a purple sandpiper Calidris maritima and Barbary doves Streptopelia risoria, we show that there are sequential non-random patterns and significant periodicities in all the examined series such that the birds cycled regularly between short and long scans. The cycles are comparable to those for the continuous series of inter-scan intervals of the same behavioural sequences. We suggest a re-examination of the functional costs and benefits of instantaneous randomness versus sequential predictability in alternating between feeding and scanning and a revision of the models of the way animals alternate between these behaviour patterns.