Long walk home: Magellanic penguins have strategies that lead them to areas where they can navigate most efficiently

Flavio Quintana, Agustina Gómez-Laich, Richard M. Gunner, Fabián Gabelli, Giacomo Dell Omo, Carlos M. Duarte, Martín Brogger, Rory P. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Understanding how animals move in dense environments where vision is compromised is a major challenge. We used GPS and dead-reckoning to examine the movement of Magellanic penguins commuting through vegetation that precluded long-distance vision. Birds leaving the nest followed the shortest, quickest route to the sea (the ‘ideal path’, or 'I-path') but return tracks depended where the birds left the water. Penguins arriving at the beach departure spot mirrored the departure. Most of those landing at a distance from the departure spot travelled slowly, obliquely to the coast at a more acute angle than a beeline trajectory to the nest. On crossing their I-path, these birds then followed this route quickly to their nests. This movement strategy saves birds distance, time and energy compared to a route along the beach and the into the colony on the I-track and saves time and energy compared to a beeline trajectory which necessitates slow travel in unfamiliar areas. This suggests that some animals adopt tactics that take them to an area where their navigational capacities are enhanced for efficient travel in challenging environments.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1976
StatePublished - Jun 8 2022

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2022-06-17
Acknowledgements: This work was funded by grants from the Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica (PICT 2013 - 1229) to F.Q. and by the CAASE project funded by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) under the KAUST Sensor Initiative to C.D. and R.P.W.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Medicine


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