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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 638:1-12 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13274

FEATURE ARTICLE
Seasonally specific responses to wind patterns and ocean productivity facilitate the longest animal migration on Earth

Tereza Hromádková1,2, Václav Pavel2, Jiří Flousek3, Martins Briedis4,5,6,*

1Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia, 370 05 České Budéjovice, Czech Republic
2Centre for Polar Ecology, Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia, 370 05 České Budéjovice, Czech Republic
3The Krkonoše Mountains National Park, Dobrovského 3, 543 01 Vrchlabí, Czech Republic
4Department of Zoology, Palacký University, 771 46 Olomouc, Czech Republic
5Swiss Ornithological Institute, 6204 Sempach, Switzerland
6Lab of Ornithology, Institute of Biology, University of Latvia, 2169 Salaspils, Latvia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Migratory strategies of animals are broadly defined by species’ eco-evolutionary dynamics, while behavioural plasticity according to the immediate environmental conditions en route is crucial for energy efficiency and survival. The Arctic tern Sterna paradisaea is known for its remarkable migration capacity, as it performs the longest migration known by any animal. Yet, little is known about the ecology of this record-breaking journey. Here, we tested how individual migration strategies of Arctic terns are adapted to wind conditions and fuelling opportunities along the way. To this end, we deployed geolocators on adult birds at their breeding sites in Svalbard, Norway. Our results confirm fundamental predictions of optimal migration theory: Arctic terns tailor their migration routes to profit from (1) tailwind support during the movement phase and (2) food-rich ocean areas during the stopover phase. We also found evidence for seasonally distinct migration strategies: terns prioritize fuelling in areas of high ocean productivity during the southbound autumn migration and rapid movement relying on strong tailwind support during the northbound spring migration. Travel speed in spring was 1.5 times higher compared to autumn, corresponding to an increase in experienced wind support. Furthermore, with their pole-to-pole migration, Arctic terns experience approximately 80% of all annual daylight on Earth (the most by any animal), easing their strictly diurnal foraging behaviour. However, our results indicate that during migration daylight duration is not a limiting factor. These findings provide strong evidence for the importance of interaction between migrants and the environment in facilitating the longest animal migration on Earth.


KEY WORDS: Arctic tern · Sterna paradisaea · Daylength · Geolocator · Global wind systems · Long-distance migration · Migration phenology · Migration strategy · Ocean productivity


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Cite this article as: Hromádková T, Pavel V, Flousek J, Briedis M (2020) Seasonally specific responses to wind patterns and ocean productivity facilitate the longest animal migration on Earth. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 638:1-12. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13274

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