Long-distance migration: evolution and determinants
Long distance migration has evolved in many organisms moving through different media and using various modes of locomotion and transport. Migration continues to evolve or become suppressed as shown by ongoing dynamic and rapid changes of migration patterns. This great evolutionary flexibility may seem surprising for such a complex attribute as migration. Even if migration in most cases has evolved basically as a strategy to maximise fitness in a seasonal environment, its occurrence and extent depend on a multitude of factors. We give a brief overview of different factors (e.g. physical, geographical, historical, ecological) likely to facilitate and/or constrain the evolution of long distance migration and discuss how they are likely to affect migration. The basic driving forces for migration are ecological and biogeographic factors like seasonality, spatiotemporal distributions of resources, habitats, predation and competition. The benefit of increased resource availability will be balanced by costs associated with the migratory process in terms of time (incl. losses of prior occupancy advantages), energy and mortality (incl. increased exposure to parasites). Furthermore, migration requires genetic instructions (allowing substantial room for learning in some of the traits) about timing, duration and distance of migration as well as about behavioural and physiological adaptations (fuelling, organ flexibility, locomotion, use of environmental transport etc) and control of orientation and navigation. To what degree these costs and requirements put constraints on migration often depends on body size according to different scaling relationships. From this expos it is clear that research on migration warrants a multitude of techniques and approaches for a complete as possible understanding of a very complex evolutionary syndrome. In addition, we also present examples of migratory distances in a variety of taxons. In recent years new techniques, especially satellite radio telemetry, provide new information of unprecedented accuracy about journeys of individual animals, allowing re-evaluation of migration, locomotion and navigation theories.
- Biological Sciences
- ISSN: 0030-1299