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Tracking of Arctic tern migrations 2007-2008

Egevang, C., Kot, C. 2008. Tracking of Arctic tern migrations 2007-2008. Greenland Institute of Natural Resources.

Contact: Egevang, Carsten

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Tracking of Arctic terns Sterna paradisaea reveals longest animal migration. more

The study of long-distance migration provides insights into the habits and performance of organisms at the limit of their physical abilities. The Arctic tern Sterna paradisaea is the epitome of such behavior; despite its small size (<125 g), banding recoveries and at-sea surveys suggest that its annual migration from boreal and high Arctic breeding grounds to the Southern Ocean may be the longest seasonal movement of any animal. Our tracking of 11 Arctic terns fitted with miniature (1.4 g) geolocators revealed that these birds do indeed travel huge distances (more than 80,000 km annually for some individuals). As well as confirming the location of the main wintering region, we also identified a previously unknown oceanic stopover area in the North Atlantic used by birds from at least two breeding populations (from Greenland and Iceland). Although birds from the same colony took one of two alternative southbound migration routes following the African or South American coast, all returned on a broadly similar, sigmoidal trajectory, crossing from east to west in the Atlantic in the region of the equatorial Intertropical Convergence Zone. Arctic terns clearly target regions of high marine productivity both as stopover and wintering areas, and exploit prevailing global wind systems to reduce flight costs on long-distance commutes. The Arctic tern is known to make the longest annual migration in the animal kingdom. During its breeding season, it is found far to the north where summer days are long, and it winters far south in the southern hemisphere, where the days are longest during November to February. This means that the Arctic tern probably experiences more sun light during a calendar year than any other creature on Earth. The long-distance travel of the Arctic tern is well-known both amongst researchers and in the broader public. Now, for the first time, technological advances allow us to follow the Arctic tern on its immense journey, practically from pole to pole. Four erroneous points were removed from the original dataset: ARTE_410, 9/17/2007 noon; ARTE_370, 9/13/2007 noon; ARTE_373, 9/15/2007 noon and 9/16/2007 noon. Sand Island (74.263 degrees N, 20.160 degrees W), northeast Greenland, is the breeding colony for these Arctic terns and was placed on the map (red-orange square). Sand Island can be used as the beginning and end of all tracks, but since exact dates of the starting and ending of the migration were not available (high-Arctic zone = continuous day light during summer = poor positions when using geolocators), the tracklines for each animal were not mapped to and from the breeding colony.

Biology > Birds
Marine/Coastal, Animal migrations, Marine birds, A, Atlantic, Sterna paradisaea Pontoppidan, 1763

Geographical coverage
A, Atlantic [Marine Regions]

Temporal coverage
13 August 2007 - 31 May 2008

Taxonomic coverage
Sterna paradisaea Pontoppidan, 1763 [WoRMS]

Greenland Institute of Natural Resources (GINR), moredata provider
Egevang, Carsten

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Published in:
EurOBIS: European Ocean Biodiversity Information System, more
OBIS-SEAMAP: Spatial Ecological Analysis of Megavertebrate Populations, more

Based on this dataset
Egevang, C. et al. (2010). Tracking of Arctic terns Sterna paradisaea reveals longest animal migration. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 107(5): 2078-2081.

Dataset status: Completed
Data type: Data
Data origin: Research: field survey
Metadatarecord created: 2012-05-14
Information last updated: 2012-06-12
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