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What is migration Migration is regular movement over relatively long distances.

Migratory animals generally make one round trip between two regions each year, although there is considerable variation among species. It is a cyclic behavior that involves the regular, seasonal or annual journey of an animal from one place to another and back again. Animals usually migrate to an area that provides a lot of food or a good environment for reproduction. Types of migration

Animal migration Human migration Bird migration Insect migration Fish migration

Animal migration is the traveling of long distances in search of a new habitat. The trigger for the migration may be local climate, local availability of food, or the season of the year. Bird migration is the regular seasonal journey undertaken by many species of birds. Bird movements include those made in response to changes in food availability, habitat or weather. Fish usually migrate because of diet or reproductive needs, although in some cases the reason for migration remains unknown. Insect migration is the seasonal movement of insects, particularly those by species of dragonflies, beetles, butterflies and moths.

The Arctic tern migrates the longest distances of any animal. It flies over 21,750 miles each year.

The whale that migrates the longest is the Gray Whale, which migrates about 12,500 miles. The insect that migrates the longest is the desert locust, which travels about 2,800 miles. The butterfly that migrates the longest is the Monarch, which migrates up to 2,000 miles. The land animal that migrates the longest is the caribou, which travels about 700 miles.

Reasons animals migrate:


To find essential minerals, e.g. wildebeest, African elephant To find shelter or avoid harsh winter weather, e.g. Mexican freetailed bat, red-sided garter snake, monarch butterfly, Caribbean spiny lobster To search for a mate, e.g. male sperm whale, Australian giant cuttlefish To give birth, lay eggs or raise young, e.g. grey whale, European toad, green turtle, emperor penguin To moult in a safe place, e.g. walrus, Shelduck, yellow-lipped sea krait (a venomous sea snake) To flee overcrowded conditions, e.g. Norway lemming, desert locust

Types of migration

The classic idea of migration is birds flying north and south between separate summer and winter ranges, or whales travelling to faraway feeding or birthing grounds.

There are many others types of migration, including:


eastwest journeys circuits of the land and ocean trips up and down mountains vertical movements through the water column of seas and lakes

Members of the same species may follow a variety of different routes. And in some migrations, only one sex or part of a species population is involved.

Finding the way

Animals have evolved highly efficient direction-finding systems. This enables them to steer the right course over great distances, often with astonishing accuracy.

Monarch butterfly breaks the record for longest insect migration

Visual clues can play a central role. They include looking out for familiar geographical landmarks, and orientating by the Sun and stars. Patterns of polarised light in the sky are important, too. Non-visual clues used in orientation include smells, tastes and sounds. Aquatic animals can analyse subtle changes in water quality and 'read' wave and current patterns. Most remarkable of all is the ability to orientate by sensing tiny variations in the Earths magnetic field.

Surviving the journey

Migration is not as dangerous as you might expect. It is a means of staying alive, after all. Migratory animals have evolved lots of ways to reduce the risks, such as:

Travel in groups for protection Hitch a lift on ocean currents, favorable winds or rising currents of warm air called thermals Stop en route to rest and refuel Feed intensively before setting off to lay down fat reserves as fuel a form of behaviour called hyperphagia Radical physical transformation. Some birds develop larger, more powerful breast muscles that are used in flight and shrink nonessential organs otherwise they would be too heavy.

Conclusion You could say that migration is a journey with a clear purpose from one area to another, often following a well-defined route to a familiar destination, and often at a specific season or time.

But the reality is that there is no universally accepted definition of migration and it is not always easy to decide which are true migrations.