Sunday, 16 September 2018

Big game animals must learn to migrate and pass knowledge across generations

Date:  September 6, 2018
Source:  University of Wyoming
A team of scientists at the University of Wyoming has provided the first empirical evidence that ungulates (hooved mammals) must learn where and when to migrate, and that they maintain their seasonal migrations by passing cultural knowledge across generations.
The results were reported today in Science.
Biologists have long suspected that, unlike many bird, fish and insect migrations that are driven by genetics, ungulates learn to migrate from their mothers or other animals in the herd. Previous research had hinted that migration was socially learned in ungulates, but a clear test had eluded researchers until now.
The authors of the study made use of a grand experiment that has been occurring across the American West over the last 60 years. After hunting and disease triggered the loss of bighorn sheep across much of their range, a cadre of dedicated wildlife managers, hunters and conservationists pioneered translocation programs to re-establish lost herds. Bighorn sheep from the few populations that persisted continued to migrate; some of these animals were captured and released into landscapes where bighorn sheep occurred previously. The conservation effort has been successful in establishing many new "translocated" herds.
"The pattern was striking," says lead author Brett Jesmer, a doctoral student at UW. "Detailed GPS data revealed that fewer than 9 percent of translocated animals migrated, but 65 to 100 percent of animals migrated in herds that had never been lost."

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