Videos of sheep, reindeer, ants, horses, penguins and even killer whales going in circles without stopping. Although some of the videos are shrouded in mysterythere are scientific reasons that explain why different animal species present this behavior.
In early November, on a farm in Mongolia, north China, a herd of 34 sheep began to spin around in an almost perfect circle. The behavior was sustained by more than two weeks without stopping.
The great sheep mystery! Hundreds of sheep walk in a circle for over 10 days in N China’s Inner Mongolia. The sheep are healthy and the reason for the strange behavior is still a mystery. pic.twitter.com/8Jg7yOPmGK
— People’s Daily, China (@PDChina) November 16, 2022
Multiple theories arose to explain the sheep phenomenon, without creating a consensus. However, one reason shared by experts like Matt Bell and Andrew Fisher is the stress under which the sheep might be.
The professor and director of the Department of Agriculture at the University of Hartpury, in England, Matt Bell, affirms that cattle, being confined for a long time, accumulate stress and frustration. This would cause some of the sheep to begin to walk in a circle and later the rest would join them, since they are herd animals.
This explanation is shared Andrew Fisher, professor of medicinal production for cattle and sheep at the University of Melbourne, Australia.
“Looks like the sheep are in the pen for extended periods of time and this could lead to stereotypical behavior, with walking in circles caused by the accumulated frustration being limited in the corral”, said the scientist to the ABC chain.
The first explanations of sheep behavior indicated that it could be due to listeriaHowever, Fisher assures that this is not a valid reason. If the herd had been sick, the bovines would present other symptoms and would die before the two weeks that the circling lasted, he assures.
In the Kola Peninsula, Russia, a herd of reindeer went viral for its mesmerizing to walk in circles.
This behavior was captured during the making of the documentary “The Wild Life of the Vikings” and is attributed to a defensive tactic by the deer.
Reindeer cyclones serve to predators cannot find a specific target. Likewise, the females and fawns of the herd settle in the center of the circle for greater protection.
Reindeer Cyclones are a real thing… a swirling mass of threatened reindeer stampeding in a circle making it impossible to target an individual.. here the fawns are in the middle
This herd is on Russia’s Kola Peninsula, in the Arctic Circle
—Science girl (@gunsnrosesgirl3) March 30, 2021
According to Live Science, circling is also featured in reindeer kept in pens. This behavior can be seen in herds of at least 20 to 25 animals.
Ants and their death spiral
ants are insects hypersocial They often live in underground communities of up to millions of members. These invertebrates communicate and cooperate through chemical substances that alert others to danger or lead them to a source of food.
The call “Circle of Death” occurs in 200 species of legionary ants. This type of ant is nomadic and does not build nests, opting instead to move in large groups during the day and build makeshift nests at night.
Despite being blind, these insects manage to coordinate and communicate through pheromones. Although this chemical allows them to organize, it can also cause their death.
In the event that a group of ants loses the pheromone trail, they can begin to follow their own chemical fingerprints, causing them to start to spin non-stop until they die of exhaustion
Walking in circles is not a behavior exclusive to terrestrial animals. Orcas and various marine species such as dolphins, sharks, turtles and various schools of fish usually swim in circle
According to the magazine Popular Mechanics, this behavior could be to Earth’s magnetic fieldused by marine animals to navigate.
“Animals could improve the accuracy of your measurements when taking multiple samples by circling several times. Animals could circle to obtain directional signals from the Earth’s geomagnetic field, especially in situations where navigation is difficult,” scientists explained to the magazine.
Humpback whales swim in a circle as a way of hunting. The so-called bubble net it consists of the whales submerging, swimming in a spiral and blowing up a wall of bubbles around their prey.
The bubble wall is impenetrable for prey. Thus, with them trapped, the whales swim from below with its mouth open to devour them.
Circles of heat and life
Emperor penguins live in the coldest region from Earth, with temperatures reaching as low as -60 degrees Celsius. While their feathers help absorb heat from the Sun, penguins devised a mechanism to generate warmth.
In order to survive and keep their egg safe, male penguins form huge compact structures in which each one is constantly moving to share the exposure to the cold. The birds are so close together that if one takes only one step, the rest must move too.
Penguins walk in a circle, advancing 5 to 10 centimeters every minute in order to keep up. the highest density of members that allows them to keep warm and resettle. The movement allows small groups to mix with large ones, reaching massive circles of penguins.
The temperature inside these circles can reach 37 degrees Celsius. Sometimes it is so hot that the penguins inside have to move to avoid overheat and so those outside can go inside to warm up more.
(Reporting by Brandon Celaya)