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Mule Deer need no instructions: Learn



  New Study: Migratory Mule Deer Need No Instructions
Mule deer move across a mugged basin in western Wyoming. New research from the University of Wyoming shows that deer navigate in the spring and fall with their knowledge of past migration routes and seasonal areas. Picture credits: Joe Riis

How do big game animals know where to migrate year after year over hundreds of kilometers of sprawling landscapes in Wyoming?

There are two denklagers among scientists. First, animals use local evidence in their vicinity to determine where to go. Animals may move to areas with greener feed ̵

1; often referred to as greenwave surfing – or move down from mountains with deeper snow. The second idea is that animals develop a memory of the landscape in which they live and then use that information to control their movements.

Recent research at the University of Wyoming has shown that memory accounts for much of the behavior of deer during migration: Mule deer mostly navigate in spring and autumn, using their knowledge of past trails and seasonal areas.

The study found that the location of hiking trails and summer areas in recent years had a 2- to 28-fold greater impact on the choice of a deer trail than environmental factors such as the pursuit of spring green, snow depth in autumn or Topography.

"These animals seem to have a cognitive map of their migration routes and seasonal areas that help them navigate tens to hundreds of miles between seasonal areas." says the main author of the work, Jerod Merkle, Assistant Professor and Knobloch Professor of Migration Ecology and Conservation in the Department of Zoology and Physiology at UW. [196590] 05] The findings were recently published in Ecology Letters a leading journal in the field of ecology. Co-authors of the work were Hall Sawyer and Western EcoSystems Technology Inc .; Kevin Monteith and Samantha Dwinnell of UW's Haub School of Environment & Natural Resources; Matthew Kauffman of the US Geological Survey Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at UW; and Gary Fralick of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Scientists had long suspected that migration behavior depended on the availability of food and other external factors. Wherever you find resources, you find species that exploit them, so the theory.

The UW team did not find it that easy. Without the inherent landscape memory factor as a guide to seasonal mountain deer, the Green Corridor West Midway Corridor in western Wyoming, which in some cases includes more than 300 miles round trip, would not exist in its current form.

"Apparently surfing with green waves helps them determine when they need to move inside their brain within a kind of map," says Merkle. "The timing of spring refreshment determines when an animal should migrate, but the spatial memory determines where to go."

The finding has important effects on conservation. Because landscape memory is so deeply rooted in migratory behavior of mules, the loss of a migratory population also destroys the herd's collective mental map of how it should move in a landscape and makes it very difficult to restore lost migration routes. Areas with potential living space are likely to be unused.

"This is another study that makes it clear that animals need to learn and remember how to travel these incredible trips," says Kauffman, who heads the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. Research has been conducted. "This is crucial for conservation, because it tells us that in order to maintain a migration corridor, we need to get the specific animals that have the knowledge to travel."

The study substantiates the results of a 2018 publication in The Science journal of a UW-led team that has found translocated bighorn sheep and moose with no knowledge of the landscape, can take several decades to a century to learn how to empty habitats migrated.

Site restoration or mitigation can be unsuccessful if restored habitats are not "discovered" and integrated into the memory of individuals.

The study further states that biologists can not successfully predict migration corridors or manage populations optimally solely on environmental information or area quality. Managers will find it hard to evaluate potential conservation measures without directly capturing transaction data. This important information sheds light on the migration knowledge that animals carry in their heads.

In addition, research shows that migrants can gain greater feed benefits during spring migration. Reminders of a vast landscape compared to migrants who rely solely on finding clues in their surroundings.

This suggests that today's migration routes are optimized over generations for surfing with green waves in large landscapes. These learned migration corridors are not easy for animals to discover if they can not access the memories of past generations.


Migrant Mule Deer Track & # 39; green waves & # 39; of spring food


Further information:
Jerod A. Merkle et al., Spatial memory shapes migration and its benefits: evidence of a large herbivore, Ecology Letters (2019). DOI: 10.1111 / ele.13362

Provided by
University of Wyoming




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Mule Deer needs no instructions: study (2019, 24th of August)
retrieved on August 24, 2019
from https://phys.org/news/2019-08-migrating-mule-deer-dont.html

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