Humans commute everywhere, each day, using any type of transportation available to them, even if it means walking. Sometimes humans travel long distances but their journeys don’t compare to the great migrations certain animals accomplish every year. The study of animal migrations has been a captivating subject for a very long time. Even those who are not scientists per say are in awe of the sheer greatness of migrations. Long distance migrants show incredible endurance and consistency throughout their journey. This review will concentrate on the different types of migrations, how these animals are tracked, why and how they migrate, and the effects of ecological aspects of migration.
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What kinds of animals migrate? Many animals migrate. The list includes mammals, birds, amphibians, fish, reptiles and insects. One can also include plants, as their seeds can be dispersed through long distances (Duarte et al., 2013). The effects that these migrations have in ecological aspects can be either beneficial or detrimental. Migrants can bring pathogens to new habitats that can devastate the local ecosystem, however migration can increase the range of certain organisms such as plants through seed dispersal by migrating birds. Migratory behaviors can also add to the genetic diversity of certain organisms in a region.
Humans did not become aware of animal migrations until approximately 20,000 years ago, around the time of the Stone Age. Rock paintings depicted animals migrating across the plains in Africa. According to Nebel (2010), the animals depicted in the rock drawings were most likely painted by “nomadic hunter-gatherers,” who may have used them as maps to visually record the best hunting grounds for food. Actual studies of animal of migration can date back nearly 3,000 years, with notable pioneers such as Herodotus, Homer, Hesoid, Aristotle and others. Many species of birds were observed such as swallows, turtledoves, and storks. For example, the ancient Greek author and naturalist, Aristotle, observed cranes that migrated to marshes in the Nile from the steppes of Scythia (Lincoln, 1979). This allowed for the creation of the theory of transmutation, where he proposed that the disappearing summer migrating birds mutated into a different species when winter came (Nebel, 2010). This theory is no longer accepted of course.
Reasons Behind Migratory Behaviors
Animals migrate for a variety of reasons, ranging from reproduction, climate change, and the presence of food to resource availability. Simply put, migration has evolved to maximize the fitness of a species. Other factors that contribute to migrations include competition, as well as predation factors. The scale of the migration is often correlated to the body size of the organism and the behavior of migrating originates as a set of genetic instructions which include instincts of time, distance, and physiological adaptations, while also leaving room for learning additional migratory adaptations (Alerstam et al. 2003).
The majority of animals migrate for reproductive and seasonal purposes. Essentially what these two things have in common is that they portray animals as opportunistic beings. Opportunistic animals will exploit the resources available to them in the habitat to which they have migrated (Cressman and Jozsef, 2011). The most notorious for the exploitation of resources to the point of devastation are none other than humans. Resources are used to attain energy during times of reproduction and most importantly for survival. Certain resources appear during a specific time of the year in a specific location on Earth. Once those resources are...