Fall Migration Begins for Animals Across the World: Watch in the Serengeti

First Posted: Sep 30, 2015 08:20 AM EDT

You may have noticed geese flying overhead. Or perhaps you've noticed the monarch butterflies in your area. That's because as the weather gets colder and the days become shorter, animals are beginning their migration. Now, you can watch one of the most epic migrations of animals of the Serengeti.

As winter approaches, food becomes scarce in regions. In order to improve their survival, many animals head toward the equator for the colder months. Many birds, insects and even mammals, such as bats, caribou, elk and whales, all travel when winter comes.

In fact, each year about a million wildebeest, half a million gazelle and 200,000 zebra travel from the Serengeti park in Tanzania to the Masai Mara reserve in Kenya. Now, the dramatic migration is being broadcast live on the web, complete with commentary, on Twitter's Periscope app. Viewers will need to register on the website of the app developers, called Herdtracker.

However, these aren't the only animals that are migrating. All across the world as winter approaches, animals are moving to warmer locales.

One of the species that travel is the Monarch butterfly. This insect can't survive the harsh winters in northern North America, and so travels south toward Mexico. Some of the insects travel as much as 3,000 miles. However, unlike birds and whales, the insect only makes the trip once. Their children's grandchildren are the ones that make the return south the following fall. Monarchs that emerge either in the late summer or early fall are biologically and behaviorally different from those that emerge in the summer; they won't mate or lay eggs until the following spring and instead they cluster together and move southward in groups. How these butterflies find their overwintering site, though, is still a mystery to researchers.

But what about species like geese and other birds? Birds can cover thousands of miles in their annual travels, often traveling the same course year after year with little deviation. Many first-year birds can make the migration on their own and somehow find their winter home. While this ability to navigate isn't fully understood, researchers believe that birds use the position of the sun, the stars and sense the Earth's magnetic field in order to properly navigate. There's even evidence that sense of smell may play a role.

When it comes to humpback whales, though, navigation is huge. These mammals migrate farther than any other mammal on Earth, and do so with extraordinary accuracy. They swim about 3,000 miles between breeding and feeding grounds, though there have been some recorded instances of whales traveling even further. Similar to birds, researchers believe that they may use both the sun and the Earth's magnetic field in order to properly navigate the ocean.

Whether it's across the ocean or through the skies, animals are traveling to avoid the harsh conditions of winter. Come spring, though, these animals will move back to cooler climes in order to escape the heat of summer.

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