Thursday, December 26, 2013

What Can Sharks, Bees and Humans Teach Us About Urban Development?

Torrey Pines
Sharks, Bees and Humans forage and explore in many of the same ways.  Researchers at University of Arizona studied the foraging and exploring patterns of a number of creatures in their habitats (1). In particular, they looked at the Hadza people of Tanzania who still forage and hunt in the same way that our ancestors did. To their amazement, they found similar patterns of activities among broad species.

The pattern is known as the Levy walk and is based on mathematical principles. The same patterns exist when foraging for food or walking around an amusement park (2). It entails short movements around a particular area and then longer movements into newer areas.

Co-author and anthropologist Brian Woods from Yale states, “Detecting this pattern among the Hadza, as has been found in several other species, tells us that such patterns are likely the result of general foraging strategies that many species adopt, across a wide variety of contexts” (3).  They argue that understanding how these patterns work may eventually influence urban development.

It is possible that this process is based on our evolutionary development to create net effects in an area. The short movements help us find the things we need for survival. Once an area is canvassed, we then move to change the environment and search again in a new area. At present, the researchers desire to conduct more studies to determine the actual reasons for and how these patterns may have influenced the societal development (4).

Putting this within an urban context, we may find that having local pockets of retail to serve basic needs of local residents with larger commercial areas could have some benefit. People will forage their neighborhoods and walk to the local grocery store but will naturally drive to shop at larger retailers or commercial districts. Getting people out of their houses and walking around can have a large impact on social cohesion and health. 

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