Biology 101 tells us that animals head south for the winter and north for the summer, but the nuances and scale of that migration remain somewhat obscure. Two new infographics from Movebank, a free public database of tracking data, reveal the remarkable journeys these species take every year.
The migratory patterns of animals help scientists learn about environmental phenomena like habitat loss, biodiversity, and diseases, among other topics. The more access to data a scientist has, the more evidence she has for research. In turn, this yields stronger conclusions. Tracking animals involves typically expensive tagging hardware and monitoring infrastructure. Maintained by the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and the University of Konstanz, Movebank includes data collected from over 11,000 scientists and researchers on birds, mammals, insects, and aquatic species. Movebank aggregates and hosts this type information and makes it easier for scientists to expand on research about animal behavior, furthering knowledge about our ecosystems.
The two animated infographics Movebank released this month show time-lapsed movements of over 150 species that travel more than 300 miles in a single direction. During the spring months, species head toward the northern hemisphere as snow and ice melts. As the planet cools in autumn, the species head south toward warmer climates. April and September are awash in movement, as the infographics reveal.
Some migration patterns have already changed as a result of global warming, and data sets available through Movebank can help scientists understand the implications. As for non-scientists: the visualizations offer a chance to marvel at the world’s natural wonders. Watch them here and here.