Surf’s Up For Wildlife

A grizzly bear catches the “red wave” by arriving at this tributary stream just as salmon begin to spawn. In a few weeks this salmon run will subside, but the bear can move to other streams with later runs, surfing the wave.

New research published in the journal Ecology finds that a wide-variety of fish and wildlife are professional surfers. But don’t expect to see these animals in the next remake of Point Break, they don’t surf waves of water; they surf waves of food, and it may be their only way to make a good living.

A grizzly bear catches the “red wave” by arriving at this tributary stream just as salmon begin to spawn. In a few weeks this salmon run will subside, but the bear can move to other streams with later runs, surfing the wave.

Species ranging from tiny fig wasps to grizzly bears meet their seasonal energy demands by tracking waves of food that propagate across landscapes. In each instance, the food source is ephemerally available at any single location, but the timing of availability varies among locations, creating a wave that lasts for much longer than its component parts.

Rainbow trout also surf the red wave of salmon to prolong the period of time that they can gorge on eggs.
Rainbow trout also surf the red wave of salmon to prolong the period of time that they can gorge on eggs.

For example, bears move across watersheds to surf waves of salmon, which allows them to feed on tasty fish for much longer than the 3-5 weeks that they are available in a single stream. Deer, geese, and other herbivores surf waves of plant green-up, moving vast distances to track early stages of growth that offer nutritious foraging. The list goes on, but the message is the same – many commercially and culturally important fauna surf resource waves to make a living off of —> Read More

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