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Spanish and Australian scientists extract elephant seals’ behavioural patterns thanks to satellites and the help of Big Data.
Animals’ migratory movements are central in order to warn us about many of the undergoing variations occurring in nature. Some of those changes are caused by humankind’s irresponsible behaviour, of course, and others are due to mysterious reasons only nature itself comprehends.
The behaviour of many bird species characterized by these climatic journeys, for instance, has transformed in recent years: they prefer to remain in their respective breeding sites instead of returning to warmer lands, since temperatures in those places have risen so much that they’re too high for them.
This fact and many more are being monitored by scientists and researchers. Sometimes, however, it’s extremely difficult to follow the course of animals in order to allow meaningful conclusions to be drawn. In fact, many of the studies currently being implemented are based on a priorisms determined by assumptions. Or on so-called turning points, major shifts made by animals’ in their course, eventually taken as patterns.
A team of researchers at the Institute of interdisciplinary Physics and Complex Systems (IFISC, UIB-CSIC) in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, in collaboration with Australian scientists, has managed to analyse elephant seals’ migration patterns in Antarctica in a much more precise and conclusive way. How? With the help of satellites and Big Data tools.
The study has followed 272 elephant seals for a whole decade, registering each and every one of their movements. Thus, the use of turning points has not been necessary, since it is based on the actual behaviour of this group of mammals. This examination brings new data regarding the logic behind the course of these animals to the table.
The compass setting the way of migratory groups is usually founded on external reasons such as food searching, although in the case of these elephant seals there’s also an internal reason to be acknowledged: memory. While the former factor is defined by slower, random-ish migratory movements, the latter is characterized by the speed and determination towards the direction followed by the animals.
Satellites and Big Data are the tools provided by technology and innovation at the service of science, and now is the turn of scholars to draw conclusions and take decisions based on these collected data.
In addition, this method will not only help in the observation of this elephant seal species, known as Miorunga leonina, but it will certainly be of great use for other crucial researches regarding nature and animal study in the planet.