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Fractal bird nest distribution produces scale-free colony sizes

AuthorsJovani, Roger ; Tella, José Luis
Colony size
nest distribution
Power law
Issue DateOct-2007
PublisherRoyal Society (Great Britain)
CitationProc. R. Soc. B (2007) 274, 2465–2469
AbstractThe spatial distribution of organisms often differs across scales. For instance, colonial bird populations could be described, from large to small scale, as scattered clumps of otherwise regularly distributed breeding pairs. We analysed the distribution of nests of a large colonial population of white storks (Ciconia ciconia) and found a fractal pattern in each of the 4 study years. Moreover, we found that the often- observed, long-tailed frequency distribution of colony sizes was well described by a power law, regardless of the cut-off used to define colonies (from 16 to 1024 m). Thus, although storks were locally highly clumped even with tens of nests in a single tree, the population was not structured in colonies (a simple clustered distribution) as previously thought. Rather, they were distributed in a continuous hierarchical set of clusters within clusters across scales, clusters lacking the commonly assumed characteristic mean size. These quantitative solutions to previously perceived scaling problems will potentially improve our understanding of the ecology and evolution of bird coloniality and animal spacing patterns and group living in general.
Publisher version (URL)http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/274/1624/2465.full.pdf+html
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