Long-ignored, high-flying arthropods could make up largest land migrations | Science News

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Long-ignored, high-flying arthropods could make up largest land migrations

Each year, 3.5 trillion aphids, moths, flies and their kin fly over southern United Kingdom

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2:46pm, December 22, 2016
ladybug

OVERLOOKED OVERHEAD  Adding up ladybugs (seven-spotted species shown) and other high-flying insects and their kin that travel overhead each year reveals what could be the biggest migration of land animals on the planet.

Forget honking Vs of geese or gathering herds of wildebeests. The biggest yearly mass movements of land animals may be the largely overlooked flights of aphids, moths, beetles, flies, spiders and their kin.

 

About 3.5 trillion arthropods fly or windsurf over the southern United Kingdom annually, researchers say after analyzing a decade of data from special entomological radar and net sweeps. The larger species in the study tended to flow in a consistent direction, suggesting that more species may have specialized biology for seasonal migrations than scientists realized, says study coauthor Jason Chapman, now at the University of Exeter in Penryn, England.

 

The creatures detected in the study may be little, but they add up to roughly 3,200 metric tons of animal weight, Chapman and colleagues report in the Dec. 23 Science. That’s 7.7 times the tonnage of U.K.

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