Travelling zebras forecast the weather

Nature 500, 24 August 2013

Zebras in Botswana heed subtle weather and vegetation clues when choosing when and how to move to greener pastures.

Hattie Bartlam-Brooks of the University of Bristol, UK, and her colleagues fitted adult zebras with tracking collars and monitored them daily on their annual migration from the Okavango Delta to the Makgadikgadi grasslands, around 250 kilometres away. They compared the migrations of seven mares with models informed by satellite data on regional vegetation and rainfall. The animals seemed to use local cues to anticipate the food and water available at their destination and adjust their movements accordingly — for example, by delaying departure or reversing direction when rainfall was unseasonably late.