Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105:19108-19113
The internal state of an individual—as it relates to thirst, hunger, fear, or reproductive drive—can be inferred by referencing points on its movement path to external environmental and sociological variables. Using time-series approaches to characterize autocorrelative properties of step-length movements collated every 3 h for seven free-ranging African elephants, we examined the influence of social rank, predation risk, and seasonal variation in resource abundance on periodic properties of movement. The frequency domain methods of Fourier and wavelet analyses provide compact summaries of temporal autocorrelation and show both strong diurnal and seasonal based periodicities in the step-length time series. This autocorrelation is weaker during the wet season, indicating random movements are more common when ecological conditions are good.