All animals move at some point in their lives. And for most organisms—other than plants—this task takes more energy than anything else they do. Creatures that waste energy are very likely doomed, so it’s no surprise that evolution has produced some amazing ways of getting around efficiently—sometimes from one side of the globe to the other.
Wandering glider, Pantala flavescens
3,700 miles/6,000 km
These insects migrate to breed and lay eggs. Scientists once thought their route stretched from southern India to the Maldives and on to East Africa. Now experts think the dragonflies may start much farther away, in Nepal or even beyond. That’s a distance of about 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers). Not bad for a two inch (five centimeter) insect!
Green sea turtle, Chelonia mydas
1,500 miles/2,500 km
Every two to four years these turtles move quickly along migration corridors to reach nesting sites that may be thousands of miles away. After laying eggs, they make the same long trip in the other direction. Turtle migrations of differing lengths take place all over the world.
Straw-colored fruit bat, Eidolon helvum
2,500 miles/3,800 km
A satellite-tracking collar revealed that an individual fruit bat made a round trip of nearly 2,500 miles (3,800 kilometers) in a single year, from Zambia to the Democratic Republic of Congo and back. These large bats travel in massive packs that may number 500,000 individuals.
Humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae
5,000 miles/8,000 km
These animals hold the mammalian record for longest-distance migration. A group of seven humpbacks, including a calf, was recorded swimming from calving grounds off Costa Rica to feeding grounds in Antarctica more than 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) away.
Lanternfish, Ceratoscopelus warmingii
These small fishes migrate from depths of 2,300 to 4,000 feet (700–1200 meters) to near the surface every day. The animals are so numerous—65 percent of deep-sea fish biomass—that people measuring the depth of the ocean once thought they were solid seafloor. When scientists noticed that the “floor” sank at dawn and rose at dusk, the error was discovered.
Zebra, Equus quagga
300 mi/500 km
Land migrations—small-scale compared to those in air or sea—are becoming less common as landscapes are developed. But wildlife scientists recently tracked 7,000 zebras in a 300-mile (500-kilometer) trek from Namibia into Botswana, the longest land mammal migration ever recorded in Africa.
Meet more amazing animals in the special exhibition, Life at the Limits, open till January 6, 2016.