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Behavior analysis of indicator species for global change and animal health, welfare and conservation

Aims in a nutshell
  • develop tools to assess behavior time series using the concepts of fractals & chaos 

  • behavioral monitoring of indicator species in sensitive environments

  • behavioral monitoring of captive animals - those on display, in laboratories, on farms, etc. 

  • tackle animal-environment interactions and assess behavioral 'quality' (for all the challenges that term brings to the fore)

  • see poster from International Conference on Conservation Biology 2019 here ----->

  • see my 2014 essay "The Fractal Primate: Interdisciplinary Science

       and the Math Behind the Monkey" published in the journal Primate Research here ----->

Collaborating institutions
  • Centre for Biological Studies in Chize (CNRS)

  • Czech Academy of Sciences

  • Veterinary and Pharmaceutical University of Brno

  • Indianapolis Zoo

  • University of California at Davis

Project Summary

Perhaps because of the difficulties inherent in determining costs associated with parasite infection and other ecological challenges, the lab also been investigates the utility of fractal analysis in health monitoring studies of wild and captive animal behaviour. I am currently using various fractal methods, including detrended fluctuation analysis (DFA) and various other Hurst exponent estimators, as well as other tools that measure fractal dimension, to examine complexity in behavioural sequences - which are subtly more stereotypical with stress and disease. Our research has now provided multiple links between parasitic infection or other challenges and complexity loss in a variety of species, from primates to penguins, and we continue to apply these fractal tools and concepts to other study systems.


Much of this work has merged novel techniques, such as temporal fractal analysis applied to data collected via bio-logging (i.e. using animal-attached data recording devices). This work has shown that penguin dive sequences exhibit fractal properties across a number of scales and over long time periods, and that certain challenges such as increased physiological stress and more heterogeneous environments are associated with altered fractal dynamics. We aim to use fractal tools to investigate through a comparative approach behavioral complexity in relation to both individual and environmental quality, and particularly with reference to issues surrounding climate change in the Antarctic region.

Key Publications
  • Meyer X, MacIntosh AJJ, Chiaradia A, Kato A, Ramirez F, Sueur C, Ropert-Coudert Y (2020) Oceanic thermal structure mediates dive sequences in a foraging seabird. Ecol and Evol DOI: 10.1002/ece3.6393

  • Le Guen C, Kato A, Raymond B, Barbraud C, Beaulieu M, Bost, C-A, Delord K, MacIntosh AJJ, Meyer X, Raclot T, Sumner M, Takahashi A, Thiebot J-B, Ropert-Coudert Y (2018) Reproductive performance and foraging behaviour share a common sea-ice concentration optimum in Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae). Global Change Biol 24:5304–5317. DOI:10.1111/gcb.14377

  • Burgunder J, Petrzelkova KJ, Modry D, Kato A, MacIntosh AJJ (2018) Fractal measures in activity patterns: do gastrointestinal parasites affect the complexity of sheep behaviour? Appl Anim Behav Sci. DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2018.05.014

  • Meyer X, MacIntosh AJJ, Chiaradia A, Kato A, Mattern T, Sueur C, Ropert-Coudert Y (Accepted) Shallow divers, deep waters, and the rise of behavioural stochasticity. Marine Biology 164:149

  • MacIntosh AJJ (2015) At the edge of chaos – error tolerance and the maintenance of Levy statistics in animal movement: Comment on “Liberating Lévy walk research from the shackles of optimal foraging” by A.M. Reynolds. Physics of Life Reviews. doi:10.1016/j.plrev.2015.07.010

  • Reynolds AM, Ropert-Coudert Y, Kato A, Chiaradia A, MacIntosh AJJ (2015) A priority-based queuing process explanation for scale-free foraging behaviours. Animal Behaviour 108:67-71

  • Meyer X*, MacIntosh AJJ*, Kato A, Chiaradia A, Ropert-Coudert Y (2015) Hydrodynamic handicaps and organizational complexity in the foraging behavior 2 of two free-ranging penguin species. Animal Biotelemetry 3:25

  • Cottin M*, MacIntosh AJJ*, Kato A, Takahashi A, Debin M, Raclot T, Ropert-Coudert Y (2014) Corticosterone administration leads to a transient alteration of foraging behaviour and complexity in a diving seabird. Marine Ecology Progress Series 496:249-262

  • MacIntosh AJJ (2014) The fractal primate: interdisciplinary science and the math behind the monkey. Primate Research 30:95-119

  • MacIntosh AJJ*, Pelletier L*, Chiaradia A, Kato A, Ropert-Coudert Y (2013) Temporal fractals in seabird foraging behaviour: diving through the scales of time. Scientific Reports 3:1884

  • MacIntosh AJJ, Alados CL, Huffman MA (2011) Fractal analysis of behaviour in a wild primate: behavioural complexity in health and disease. Journal of the Royal Society Interface 8:1497-1509

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