Michael Anderson in Science, CBC

wildebeest on annual migration

Wake Forest Biology Professor T. Michael Anderson was featured on the Candian Broadcasting Company’s program “Quirks and Quarks” with Bob McDonald.  McDonald’s interview with Dr. Anderson contains an entertaining and informative discussion with Dr. Anderson.

The program can be heard here:


The Science Publication

Dr. Anderson and his colleagues published an article in Science that discusses the annual migration of approximately 200,000 zebras, 1.3 million wildebeests, and 400,000 Thomson’s gazelles through the Serengeti into Kenya, a journey spanning 800 kilometers.  The article covering this research was written by Elizabeth Pennisi and is titled, “Serengeti’s ‘breathtaking’ mammal migration shaped by grazers’ diets.”

A summary article by Elizabeth Pennisi is found here:


In the study, led by T. Michael Anderson, a savanna ecologist at Wake Forest University, the research team used eight years of camera trap data, GPS tracking, and fecal analysis to investigate the dynamics of this migration. The study reveals the crucial role of diet in determining the order and timing of the migration, with each species exhibiting distinct dietary preferences that reduce competition for food resources. Zebras, consuming mainly coarse, nutrient-poor grasses, move first to access dense patches of tall grass, followed by wildebeests that select more nutritious options like legumes, and finally, gazelles that focus on high-nutrient foods like forbs and young plants. The research also indicates that external factors such as fire and unusual weather patterns can disrupt the annual migration, suggesting that climate change could pose a significant threat to these species and the ecological balance of their habitat. This comprehensive study sheds light on the complex interplay of natural processes that enable these species to coexist and highlights the importance of migration for the health and abundance of these animal populations.

The study was funded by the National Geographic Society and the National Science Foundation.