Ecology Letters (2011)
Animal migration is one of the great wonders of nature, but the factors that determine how far migrants travel remain poorly understood. We present a new quantitative model of animal migration and use it to describe the maximum migration distance of walking, swimming and flying migrants. The model combines biomechanics and metabolic scaling to show how maximum migration distance is constrained by body size for each mode of travel. The model also indicates that the number of body lengths travelled by walking and swimming migrants should be approximately invariant of body size. Data from over 200 species of migratory birds, mammals, fish, and invertebrates support the central conclusion of the model – that body size drives variation in maximum migration distance among species through its effects on metabolism and the cost of locomotion. The model provides a new tool to enhance general understanding of the ecology and evolution of migration.