Main content area

Animal migration: is there a common migratory syndrome

Dingle, Hugh
Journal für Ornithologie 2006 v.147 no.2 pp. 212-220
Aphidoidea, Hemiptera, birds, breeding, breeding sites, butterflies, evolution, fish, genetic variance, life history, migratory behavior, wintering grounds
Ornithologists, and especially northern hemisphere ornithologists, have traditionally thought of migration as an annual return movement of populations between regular breeding and non-breeding grounds. Problems arise because selection does not ordinarily act on populations and because organisms of many taxa (including birds) are clearly migrants, but fail to undertake movements of the kind described. There are also extensive return movements that are not migratory. I propose that it is more useful to think of migration as a syndrome of behavioral and other traits that function together within individuals, and that such a syndrome provides a common ground across taxa from aphids to albatrosses. Large-scale return movements of populations are one outcome of the syndrome. Similar behavioral and physiological traits serve both to define migration and to provide a test for it. I use two insect (Hemipteran) examples to illustrate migratory syndromes and to demonstrate that, in many migrants, behavior and physiology correlate with life history and morphological traits to form syndromes at two levels. I then compare the two Hemipterans with migration in birds, butterflies, and fish to assess the question of whether there are migratory syndromes in common between these diverse migrants. Syndromes are more similar at the level of behavior than when morphology and life history traits are included. Recognizing syndromes leads to important evolutionary questions concerning migration strategies, trade-offs, the maintenance of genetic variance and the responses of migratory syndromes to both similar and different selective regimes.