Road Warriors: 4 Extreme Long-Distance Animal Travelers

(Images via: BBC, Birding Alaska, Kimberley Accommodation, Flickr, The Americas Group)

Life is a long, arduous road full of many twists and turns. Just ask bar-tailed godwits, European eels, estuarine crocodiles and Northern elephant seals: four animal explorers that certainly accumulate their fair share of annual travel points, some via unique and even clever modes of transportation.

Hitch A Ride on the Wings of a Bar-Tailed Godwit

(Images via: Birding, Real Birder, Surf Birds, Dig Deep)

Twice a year, a bird known as the bar-tailed godwit travels almost 14,000 miles on a trip from Alaska to New Zealand in the fall and then back to its original location in the spring. Big deal, you say. I mean this bird has plenty of time to rest, right? Well, sure it does, but here’s what’s really impressive. The bar-tailed godwit can make this one-way trip in eight days straight, without once stopping for food or rest. Compare this to all other birds, which can only complete trips that are twice as short without stopping. Or to a man-made aircraft that can stay in the air for 82 straight hours (roughly 3 days and 10 hours). How does the record holding bar-tailed godwit accomplish this amazing feat, all the while never getting lost? Well, it is extremely fuel efficient, consuming only .41 percent of its body weight during each hour of any flight, and also aerodynamic in shape. Furthermore, it may have an inner compass that utilizes the Earth’s magnetic field. Whatever the case, this bird is truly something to behold in terms of its travel capabilities.

How Does It Feel to be A Traveling European Eel?

(Images via: Sustainable Sushi, Lazy Lizard Tales, BBC, Desdemona Despair)

Speaking of impressive travelers, European eels are known for swimming approximately 3,418 miles from Europe to the Sargasso Sea (located in the North Atlantic, with the Gulfstream to the west, the Greater Antilles south, and Berumda north), all for the purpose of mating and laying eggs. Once their larvae hatch, these eels swim back to Europe. In comparison to the bar-tailed godwit, these eels are more advantageous travelers in that they consume less energy; however, they are not as fast as these birds. According to a Lund’s University researcher, it would take these eels 345 days to complete the 6,835-mile trip of the bar-tailed godwit. No thanks.

Unlikely/Dangerous Ocean Surfers: Estuarine Crocodiles

(Images via: The Epoch Times, NT News, Odyssey Safari, Yet Another Tentacled Thing)

Reaching up to 23 feet in length and 1,000 pounds in weight, estuarine crocodiles don’t have bodies like the bar-tailed godwit to travel long distances, right? Yet these crocodiles are found in all different parts of the world and known for showing up in unlikely areas. How is this possible? Well, once a sly croc, always a sly croc, as these crocodiles have been known to surf the ocean currents to far away destinations. In the past, people have been surprised to see what appeared to be estuarine crocodiles far from shore. It turns out that these crocodiles, which usually reside in rivers, swamps and brackish estuaries, will turn to the oceans when the tides turn, thus allowing them anywhere from 6 to 8 hours of speedy and effortless travel. When the tides change to undesired directions, these ocean-riding crocodiles will come to shore to rest. With that said, an important question must be asked: how do these crocodiles know where they’re going? Well, it turns out that crocodiles are more like birds that we thought, specifically with internal magnetic compasses that help them determine direction.

The Migratory Lives of Northern Elephant Seals

(Images via: Daily Kos, Kid Cyber, Flickr)

A resident of the Eastern Pacific Ocean, the Northern elephant seal spends most of its year traveling (spread out during two migration patterns annually) to feeding areas that include the Gulf of Alaska. More specifically, male Northern elephant seals spend roughly 250 days at sea each year, traveling more than 13,000 miles. As for female Northern elephant seals, they spend more time migrating, specifically 300 days a year, while covering more than 11,000 miles in the process. No other mammal spends more time traveling each year than Northern elephant seals. When not migrating, Northern elephant seals are either mating or moulting (i.e. shedding their skin in layers). With so much required of Northern elephant seals, it certainly pays off that these mammals are able to dive great depths and remain submerged for extremely long periods of time. And that they have enough blubber to go around and provide abundant amounts of energy. Happy trails.

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