Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Changes in vegetation determine how animals migrate

Date:
May 23, 2011
Source:
Smithsonian
Summary:
The predictability and scale of seasonal changes in a habitat help determine the distance migratory species move and whether the animals always travel together to the same place or independently to different locations, according to a new article. The study's findings have significant implications for land managers around the world working to conserve endangered species that migrate.

Caribou on the tundra. Researchers compared how Mongolian gazelle migrate to the movement of three other ungulate species: guanaco in the Patagonian Steppes in Argentina, caribou in the arctic tundra of Canada and Alaska and moose in temperate forests in Massachusetts.
Credit: Lars Johansson / Fotolia

The predictability and scale of seasonal changes in a habitat help determine the distance migratory species move and whether the animals always travel together to the same place or independently to different locations, according to a paper published online in February in Global Ecology and Biogeography by the National Zoo's Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute researchers and partners.

The study's findings have significant implications for land managers around the world working to conserve endangered species that migrate.

"We knew that Mongolian gazelle in the Eastern Steppes migrate long distances, but when we put radio collars on them, we were surprised to discover that they go off individually in different directions," said Thomas Mueller, a research associate at SCBI and lead author of the study.

"Previously researchers had not paid much attention to how individual animals that migrate long distances move relative to one another," Mueller added.

The researchers compared how Mongolian gazelle migrate to the movement of three other ungulate species: guanaco in the Patagonian Steppes in Argentina, caribou in the arctic tundra of Canada and Alaska and moose in temperate forests in Massachusetts. SCBI's primary role in collaboration with University of Maryland was to provide the remote tracking technology and statistical analysis, while other partners organized and executed the field work in each of the areas.

After determining how far each species migrated and whether individuals moved together or independently from each other in different directions, the scientists compared these results to 25 years of satellite data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showing seasonal and annual changes in landscape dynamics. They found that the species that moved the largest distances (caribou and gazelle) live in areas where vegetation (their food source) varies over large scales, while those that moved shorter distances (guanaco and moose) live in areas where the vegetation varies at a much smaller scale.

They also found that Mongolian gazelles, which move independently in different directions compared to one another other, live in habitats with the least predictable landscape dynamics.

"What this indicates is that while it may be appropriate to put barriers around landscapes where endangered species stay in herds as they migrate, species that migrate long distances as individuals require conservation strategies that facilitate long-distance movements across the entire landscape," said Scott Derrickson, deputy director of SCBI. "We now know some of the landscape factors that we can look at to determine the best way to manage habitat for endangered or threatened species."

SCBI will spearhead the next steps in the research: expanding the number of species and the number of study regions and refining the statistical methods quantifying how individuals move relative to one another. The researchers also want to understand how the animals know how to navigate the landscapes -- whether through memory or through other sensory mechanisms -- and if those mechanisms differ between the species that migrate as herds or as individuals.

The paper's authors from SCBI are Mueller, Peter Leimgruber and Justin Calabrese.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Smithsonian. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Thomas Mueller, Kirk A. Olson, Gunnar Dressler, Peter Leimgruber, Todd K. Fuller, Craig Nicolson, Andres J. Novaro, Maria J. Bolgeri, David Wattles, Stephen DeStefano, Justin M. Calabrese, William F. Fagan. How landscape dynamics link individual- to population-level movement patterns: a multispecies comparison of ungulate relocation data. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1466-8238.2010.00638.x

Cite This Page:

Smithsonian. "Changes in vegetation determine how animals migrate." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110511142138.htm>.
Smithsonian. (2011, May 23). Changes in vegetation determine how animals migrate. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110511142138.htm
Smithsonian. "Changes in vegetation determine how animals migrate." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110511142138.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 16, 2014) Crocodile farming has been a challenge in Zimbabwe in recent years do the economic collapse and the financial crisis. But as Ciara Sutton reports one of Europe's biggest suppliers of skins to the luxury market has come up with an unusual survival strategy - vegetarian food. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Couples Who Sleep Less Than An Inch Apart Might Be Happiest

Couples Who Sleep Less Than An Inch Apart Might Be Happiest

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study by British researchers suggests couples' sleeping positions might reflect their happiness. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Passengers Abuzz After Plane Hits Swarm of Bees

Passengers Abuzz After Plane Hits Swarm of Bees

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) An Allegiant Airlines plane from Las Vegas to Duluth, Minnesota turned around shortly after take-off, after a swarm of bees clouded the windshield and got sucked into the engines. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins