Stories tagged migration

Long-distance cat: A mountain lion (not this one) made a 1,500-mile migration from the Black Hills to Connecticut before being killed when hit by a car
Long-distance cat: A mountain lion (not this one) made a 1,500-mile migration from the Black Hills to Connecticut before being killed when hit by a carCourtesy US Dept. of Agriculture
Remember the police dashcam video of a mountain lion roaming through a Twin Cities suburb two years ago? It was shown on all the local news programs. The same cat was killed when hit by a car in Connecticut last month. DNA samples from the mountain lion's hair confirm the match. The cat has been traced to the Black Hills region of South Dakota, giving it a 1,500-mile migration over two years.


Antennas key to navigating during migration

Monarch migration: The antenna is vital to navigating.
Monarch migration: The antenna is vital to navigating.Courtesy L-T-L

Ever wonder how monarch butterflies navigate. They use the sun you might say. The sun is constantly moving, though. Well, maybe a built in clock helps. How important are the eyes compared to the antennas?

To figure out what was important scientists dipped some antennas in clear varnish and some in black paint. The ones with clear varnish had no trouble navigating. The ones with black paint covering their antennas could not.

That not only showed the antennas were sensing light for navigating, it also showed that the sense of smell isn't involved in finding the way, since both paints blocked that ability. USA Today

Learn more monarch migration

The study was led by Dr. Steven M. Reppert, chairman of neurobiology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. I urge you to visit his faculty web page which explains how his team is using anatomical, cellular, molecular, electrophysiological, genetic and behavioral approaches to more fully understand the biological basis of monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) migration.
The incredible detail and depth of their research made me appreciate how understanding one little thing like butterfly migration can lead to better understanding how complex things like the human brain works. This recent paper published in science was titled, Antennal Circadian Clocks Coordinate Sun Compass Orientation in Migratory Monarch Butterflies.

Want to help track monarchs? The Minnesota Zoo is offering visitors the chance to participate in a monarch tagging project. (Data from tagged monarchs helps scientists learn about their amazing migration.)

August 30, 4 - 5 p.m.
September 6, 4 -5 p.m.
(Dates are subject to change depending on the weather.)

Cost is $10 per person. Children under 10 should be accompanied by an adult. Call 952.431.9273 to make a reservation.


Cute, nautical, and Scandinavian: But probably smaller.
Cute, nautical, and Scandinavian: But probably smaller.Courtesy hans s
So… we’re learning about genetics, aren’t we? We can’t help it—here we have see-through frogs, there we have genetically engineered vegetables, here we have a fatherless child with the same hair color, eye color, and blood type as me. Genetics are all around us these days, in our schools, in our dinners, and calling our lawyers. As much as we might try to hide from it, the subject is unavoidable.

It’s nice, then, when some aspect of this genetic tsunami can take our minds off of all the tricky stuff. Things like mutant frogs are fun (All those legs! Somebody give them their own cartoon!), but they never last long (The frogs tend to die. Cancel the frog show.)

I think, however, that I may have found a winner: Viking mice. They’re genetically remarkable, and they’re lifespan is the same as any other mouse: about 2 or 3 years. Somebody start work on a Viking Mouse cartoon!

So what we have here is your common house mouse. The house mouse evolved into a variety of different strains as it spread into Western Europe about 3,000 years ago, during the Iron Age. Little French house mice learned to wear berets and smoke cigarettes, German mice developed a love of sausages and efficiency, and so forth; the Iron Age was a wonderful time, and it birthed many of our favorite cultural stereotypes. However, something interesting has come up in a recent genetic study of British house mice.

The surprising result of a nationwide rash of mouse paternity cases, the mice of Britain were surprised to find that they themselves were the products of unexpected parents. Studying their mitochondrial DNA (traceable genetic material from the mother’s side), it appears that most mice from mainland Britain are closely related to mice from Germany (the descendants of little Saxon mice?). Mice from the Orkney Islands of Northern Scotland, however, were found to be “Viking mice,” genetically similar to mice from Norway. And it makes sense—the Orkneys were an important center of the Norwegian Viking “kingdom,” back in the 11th and 12th centuries. These little mousies are the descendants of the warlike Viking mice, who hitched rides across the North Sea in the holds of Viking longboats a thousand years ago. Or… maybe they had their own tiny boats… Viking mice!

We pretty much already knew that Vikings were in the Orkneys at that time, but the genetic evidence from the mice are is a good example of how non-human DNA (mitochondrial DNA in particular) can be a tool for tracking other historical human migrations, and… and…

Just picture those little Viking mice. Tiny helmets, curly little beards, squeaky battle cries… they must have been adorable. Just to see them slaughtering little monk mice, it must have been too cute.

Oh, also, while we’re on the subject of house mice—I noticed this little section in Wikipedia’s article on them. After being accidentally introduced to the south Atlantic Gough Island, house mice, which normally have a body length of about 3 inches, began growing “unusually large” and feeding on albatross chicks. The mice kill the chicks, which can be about a meter tall, by “working in groups and gnawing on them until the bleed to death.” Talk about Viking mice.

Here's a charming story about sea turtles and a restaurant in Rome. If he were still alive, I think Rodney Dangefield could make some pretty good jokes out of this material.

Scientists at the University of Utah have discovered a way to read the water molecules in a person’s hair, and thereby determine where that person comes from. Hydrogen and oxygen atoms come in different forms, or isotopes, which are found in different parts of the country. As your body grows hair, it uses the isotopes it absorbed from your local drinking water. Reading the isotopes tells scientists where the person lived. This tool can be used to help identify bodies and solve missing persons cases.

Wired Magazine has a feature on National Geographic's massive gene database project. They hope to track how humans have moved through the world by looking at mutations in our mother's DNA.


Missing in action: Researchers are looking for help to find out what happened to a sea turtle that lost the satelitte transmitters on its back.
Missing in action: Researchers are looking for help to find out what happened to a sea turtle that lost the satelitte transmitters on its back.
Science Buzz readers had fun a couple weeks ago following the Great Turtle Race from Costa Rica to the Galapagos Islands. But here’s a sad swimming turtle story.

Authorities in Indonesia are offering a $500 reward for information about a satellite transmitter found in the coastal town of Krui in Sumatra. The transmitters were glued to the back of an Olive Ridley turtle that had been released into the South China Sea.

A total of 12 of the rare turtles were equipped with the transmitters to track their migration patterns. It’s believed that the turtle-less transmitter might belong to a turtle that was illegally captured by hunters.

Olive Ridley turtles can weigh up to 100 pounds

Satellite transmitters glued to the back of a turtle released into the South China Sea last year are beaming signals from an Indonesian coastal town — and scientists are offering $500 to anyone who can find them.

They believe the turtle — one of 12 released as part of an experiment to monitor their behavior — was illegally captured and killed for its meat. Still, scientists want to retrieve the devices to learn more about the threatened sea creatures.

The specific project raised turtles of several species in captivity and then released them into the wild. The transmitters have shown that most of the others have been adapting well.


The great race: Satellite technology is keeping tabs on the progress of 11 leatherback turtles as they migrate from Costa Rica to the Galapagos Islands in the Great Turtle Race.
The great race: Satellite technology is keeping tabs on the progress of 11 leatherback turtles as they migrate from Costa Rica to the Galapagos Islands in the Great Turtle Race.
The Kentucky Derby is still a few weeks away, but there’s another big animal race taking place right now deep in the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

The Great Turtle Race started on Monday as 11 leatherback turtles left the shores of Costa Rica on their spring migration to the Galapagos Islands. They should complete the 1,200-mile journey within the next couple weeks. Satellite tracking equipment is strapped to each turtle and their progress is being monitored on the website The tracking information measures their progress toward the island and also how deep they’re diving into the ocean.

Leatherback turtles are an endangered species that some environmentalists fear could be wiped off the Earth in the next 10 years. The female populations of the turtles have dropped from 115,000 in 1980 to less than 43,000 today.


All 18 yearling whooping cranes killed in recent Florida storm.

Storm kills 18 whooping cranes
Storm kills 18 whooping cranes
All 18 young whooping cranes that were led south from Wisconsin with an ultralight last fall were killed in a Florida storm. As of January, 2007, there were 82 surviving Whooping Cranes in the Eastern Migratory Population. Subtract 18 and there may have been additional losses to the whooping cranes in the wild.

Birds most likely drowned by storm surge

Current speculation is that a storm surge drowned the birds. The cranes were being kept in an enclosure at the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge near Crystal River, Fla.. Official flock status numbers at will eventually be updated to give the best count.

The other wild whooping crane flock in North America has about 237 birds and migrates from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. A non-migratory flock in Florida has about 53 birds. If captive birds are counted, the number of whooping cranes in the world is 500.

Buzz Blog posts about "Operation Migration":