Sci Rep. 2022 Nov 17;12(1):19800. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-24361-9.
Random walks are common in nature and are at the basis of many different phenomena that span from neutrons and light scattering to the behaviour of animals. Despite the evident differences among all these phenomena, theory predicts that they all share a common fascinating feature known as Invariance Property (IP). In a nutshell, IP means that the mean length of the total path of a random walker inside a closed domain is fixed by the geometry and size of the medium. Such a property has been demonstrated to hold not only in optics, but recently also in the field of biology, by studying the movement of bacteria. However, the range of validity of such a universal property, strictly linked to the fulfilment of equilibrium conditions and to the statistical distributions of the steps of the random walkers, is not trivial and needs to be studied in different contexts, such as in the case of biological entities occupied in random foraging in an open environment. Hence, in this paper the IP in a virtual medium inside an open environment has been studied by using actual movements of animals recorded in nature. In particular, we analysed the behaviour of a grazer mollusc, the chiton Acanthopleura granulata. The results depart from those predicted by the IP when the dimension of the medium increases. Such findings are framed in both the condition of nonequilibrium of the walkers, which is typical of animals in nature, and the characteristics of actual animal movements.