On the adaptive benefits of mammal migration

T. Avgar, G. Street, J. M. Fryxell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


Migration is well developed among mammals, but there has been little attempt to date to review common ecological constraints that may guide the evolution of migration among mammals, nor to consider its prevalence across different taxa. Here we review several alternate hypotheses for the evolution of migration in mammals based on improvements in energetic gain and mate-finding contrasted with reduction in energetic costs or the risk of predation and parasitism. While there are well-documented examples of each across the order Mammalia, the available evidence to date most strongly supports the energy gain and predation risk hypotheses in the terrestrial realm, whereas a combined strategy of reducing energetic costs in one season but improving energetic gain in another season seems to characterize aquatic mammal species, as well as bats. We further discuss behavioral and physiological specialization and provide a taxonomic cross section of mammalian migration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)481-490
Number of pages10
JournalCanadian Journal of Zoology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • Adaptive behavior
  • Competing hypotheses
  • Habitat suitability
  • Movement ecology
  • Partial migration
  • Resource gradient
  • Seasonal migration


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