Rapid formation of new migration route and breeding area by Arctic geese

Jesper Madsen*, Kees H.T. Schreven, Gitte H. Jensen, Fred A. Johnson, Leif Nilsson, Bart A. Nolet, Jorma Pessa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Many Arctic-breeding animals are at risk from local extirpation associated with habitat constriction and alterations in phenology in their Arctic environment as a result of rapid global warming.1 Migratory species face additional increasing anthropogenic pressures along their migratory routes such as habitat destruction, droughts, creation of barriers, and overexploitation.2,3 Such species can only persist if they adjust their migration, timing of breeding, and range.4 Here, we document both the abrupt (∼10 years) formation of a new migration route and a disjunct breeding population of the pink-footed goose (Anser brachyrhynchus) on Novaya Zemlya, Russia, almost 1,000 km away from the original breeding grounds in Svalbard. The population has grown to 3,000–4,000 birds, explained by intrinsic growth and continued immigration from the original route. The colonization was enabled by recent warming on Novaya Zemlya. We propose that social behavior of geese, resulting in cultural transmission of migration behavior among conspecifics as well as in mixed-species flocks, is key to this fast development and acts as a mechanism enabling ecological rescue in a rapidly changing world.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCurrent Biology
Publication statusPublished - 01 Mar 2023


  • Arctic
  • climate change
  • cultural transmission
  • habitat loss
  • rapid evolution
  • pink-footed goose
  • population exchange
  • social learning


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