Throughout the animal kingdom, various species undertake astonishing journeys that span vast distances, defying geographical boundaries, and pushing the limits of endurance. The distance some creatures travel in pursuit of fresh habitat, whether by wing, fin, or hoof, is only paralleled by what they endure. Most animals migrate to warmer climates away from winter. These migrations serve important functions like seeking food, avoiding harsh climates, and reproducing in ideal conditions. Migratory birds are the most well-known traveling creatures but in reality, millions of animals migrate every year from one ecosystem to another. Here is a list of animals that travel the farthest.
Animals That Travel the Farthest
1. Arctic terns (Sterna paradisaea)
Arctic terns are small, plain-looking birds with a wing span of 64-76 centimeters (25.2-29.9 inches) and a weight of 90-120 grams (3.2-4.2 ounces). They are thought to migrate roughly 70,000 kilometers (44,000 miles) per year, setting the record for the longest migratory journey of any bird on Earth.
Arctic terns spend most of the year at sea, chasing a never-ending summer. To the untrained eye, they do not appear to be designed for endurance, but these birds hold the record for the world’s longest migration of any animal. Because the seasons are reversed in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, when winter approaches in their Arctic breeding grounds, the terns migrate south to Antarctica, where summer is just beginning.
2. Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)
The charismatic leatherback sea turtle makes remarkable journeys in the open sea to feed, mature, and lay eggs. The leatherback sea turtle travels long distances across the ocean between nesting and foraging grounds. Leatherback turtles have been observed traveling across the Pacific Ocean between Indonesia and the west coasts of the United States and Canada, a distance of more than 10,000 miles from their nesting beaches in the tropics to cold-water feeding grounds in search of their primary prey, jellyfish. Despite their widespread distribution, the number of leatherback turtles has dropped dramatically and hence listed ad endangered turtle species under the endangered species act over the last century as a result of intensive egg collecting and bycatch in fisheries.
Image Source: Wikimedia
3. Dragonflies (Pantala flavescens)
The dragonfly, also known as the wandering glider, is a type of dragonfly that undertakes an astonishing long-distance migration. Some individuals migrate across continents, covering distances of up to 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers). Dragonflies migrate from India through the Maldives, Seychelles, Mozambique, Uganda, and back. The epic migration spans four generations of dragonflies, with each generation participating in the trek as if it were a relay race. Their migration behavior and route selection continue to be subjects of scientific study. It is without a doubt the longest insect migration yet discovered.
4. Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus)
Monarch butterflies can be found all throughout the United States and further abroad, but the northeastern American population is most known for crossing the 4,800-kilometer (3,000-mile) border between Canada and Mexico. This generation of butterflies completes the voyage begun by their great-great-great-grandparents.
Every year, millions of monarch butterflies migrate south from their northern ranges to the oyamel fir woods near the Sierra Madre mountains, where they congregate in massive roosts to survive the winter. When spring arrives, the monarchs start their return journey north; the population cycles through three to five generations to reach their destination. Females lay eggs on milkweed plants along the way, which the caterpillars eat after hatching.
5. Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus)
Wildebeest are antelopes, but with their large horns, stocky bodies, and shaggy manes, they resemble cows. They dwell in enormous herds of over a million, among thousands of zebras and gazelles. The great wildebeest migration is a stunning phenomenon that involves over a million wildebeest and other herbivores passing through East Africa’s Serengeti habitat. The migration, which covers around 1,800 miles (2,900 kilometers), is driven by the hunt for fresh pasture and water sources, and it is an important component of the region’s ecosystem. Individuals must keep up with the herd or risk being picked off by the lions, hyenas, and crocodiles that gather to hunt.
6. Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)
Humpback whales are well-known for their extensive journeys between feeding and breeding areas. They are one of the largest animals on the planet, fully grown adults can reach 18 meters (59 feet) in length and weigh an impressive 36,000 kilograms (79,366 pounds). They travel thousands of miles, with some traversing more than 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) in a single trip.
These movements ensure access to plentiful food supplies in the summer and preserve young calves in warmer, safer waters in the winter. They do not feed along their migration route and instead rely on fat reserves accumulated over the summer months to survive. Humpback whales are slow swimmers, but they compensate by swimming nonstop for days on end.
7. Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus)
The bar-headed goose is a type of goose that breeds in Central Asia on alpine lakes in large colonies and spends the winters as far south as peninsular India. The bar-headed goose is one of the birds of New England renowned for its high-altitude migration, as it traverses the Himalayan mountain range during its journey between its breeding grounds in Central Asia and wintering areas in the Indian subcontinent. It produces three to eight eggs at a time. These geese reach altitudes of over 29,000 feet (8,800 meters) when flying over the mountains, a feat made possible by specialized adaptations in their physiology.
8. Sooty Shearwater (Ardenna grisea)
The sooty shearwater is a seabird known for its remarkable transoceanic migrations. These birds are of medium size, dark brown in color, with silvery flashes on the undersides. It has slender wings that beat quickly and deeply. The Flesh-footed Shearwater’s brown plumage is similar to Sooty’s, although Sooty has smaller, all-dark bill and narrower wings. These birds breed in the Southern Hemisphere and then embark on a journey that covers an astounding 40,000 miles (64,000 kilometers) as they fly north to forage in nutrient-rich waters off the coasts of North America, Asia, and Europe.
Image Source: Wikimedia
9. Caribou (Rangifer tarandus)
Caribou is one of the animals that live in the tundra also known as reindeer in Eurasia, in North America migrate the longest of any terrestrial mammal, covering more than 838 miles every year. The Porcupine caribou herd, for example, travels over 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) annually, making it one of the longest terrestrial migrations in North America. Caribou migrate to forested areas in the winter for easier foraging and then migrate to improved calving grounds in the summer. It is one of the most popular animals that travel the farthest in the world.
10. Sockeye Salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka)
Sockeye salmon undertake remarkable migrations between their freshwater spawning grounds and the open ocean. After hatching in rivers and streams, they journey to the ocean, where they spend several years feeding and growing. When it’s time to reproduce, they return to their natal rivers, sometimes traveling over 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers), overcoming numerous obstacles like waterfalls and predators to complete their life cycle. Sockeye salmon spend the majority of their lives in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, feeding and growing before returning to the rivers where they were born.
Image Source: Wikimedia
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