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March 11, 2016 Comments Off on Dance Marathon is for the Weak: Nature’s Ultra-Marathoners All Other Stories, Features

Dance Marathon is for the Weak: Nature’s Ultra-Marathoners

By Jessie Moravek

Hey all you DM 2016 survivors: think dancing for 30 hours is hard? Nature has its own ultra-marathoners that wouldn’t blink an eye at such a measly challenge:

Salmon

salmon

During spawning season, adult salmon migrate upriver river to mate and lay their eggs. These migrations can be hundreds or even thousands of miles in length: a Chinook salmon population in Alaska travels over 1,900 miles up the Yukon River! Along the way, salmon face many obstacles: they have to swim against the current, through polluted waters, past fishermen’s nets, through dams, and over waterfalls. And on top of all that, salmon do not eat after they leave the ocean. That makes Dance Marathon’s snacks sound pretty good…

Leatherback Turtles

ar-leatherback

Leatherbacks sometimes swim over 10,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean from Asia to the U.S. West Coast. They travel in search of foraging grounds where they eat jellyfish, or breeding grounds, where they crawl onto beaches to lay eggs. Leatherbacks also travel around the Atlantic Ocean, where scientists have tracked them moving between South Africa and the Caribbean. Leatherbacks are also champion divers—they can get down to 4,200 feet, which is deeper than any other turtle. Meanwhile, DM dancers enjoy their constant oxygen flow.

Monarch Butterflies

monarchs

Monarch butterflies may be small, but they sure fly a long way. Monarchs generally breed in the northern U.S. and Canada, spend the winter in southern California and Mexico, and then travel back. On the way south, the migration is made by a single butterfly, called the “migratory generation.” The butterflies in this generation, which hatch in the fall, travel all the way to wintering grounds in the south, where they spend the winter. When spring comes around, they lay their eggs. The butterflies in charge of traveling back north get a break; it takes 3-4 generations of offspring to migrate all the way back. Bet you wish you could tag-team Dance Marathon!

Alaskan Bar-Tailed Godwit

Bar-tailed Godwit

The Bar-tailed godwit breeds in the Arctic, but flies all the way to New Zealand to spend the winter. On its way back to the Arctic, the godwit undertakes the longest non-stop flight of any bird—from New Zealand to the Yellow Sea in China, 6,851 miles. After a quick pit stop, they keep going to Alaska. The recent record-setting nonstop airplane flight by Emirates airline has godwits beat by about 2,000 miles, but this bird didn’t get any in-flight peanuts to keep it going.

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