Hidden semi-Markov models reveal multiphasic movement of the endangered Florida panther
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Animals must move to find food and mates, and to avoid predators; movement thus influences survival and reproduction, and ultimately determines fitness. Precise description of movement and understanding of spatial and temporal patterns as well as relationships with intrinsic and extrinsic factors is important both for theoretical and applied reasons. We applied hidden semi-Markov models (HSMM) to hourly geographic positioning system (GPS) location data to understand movement patterns of the endangered Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi) and to discern factors influencing these patterns. Three distinct movement modes were identified: (1) Resting mode, characterized by short step lengths and turning angles around 180(o); (2) Moderately active (or intermediate) mode characterized by intermediate step lengths and variable turning angles, and (3) Traveling mode, characterized by long step lengths and turning angles around 0(o). Males and females, and females with and without kittens, exhibited distinctly different movement patterns. Using the Viterbi algorithm, we show that differences in movement patterns of male and female Florida panthers were a consequence of sex-specific differences in diurnal patterns of state occupancy and sex-specific differences in state-specific movement parameters, whereas the differences between females with and without dependent kittens were caused solely by variation in state occupancy. Our study demonstrates the use of HSMM methodology to precisely describe movement and to dissect differences in movement patterns according to sex, and reproductive status.
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