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I see two possibilities how could the birds know what to do every fall:

  • The birds' migrations are driven entirely by the vertical memetics and today it is just a custom transferred from parents to offsprings.
  • There is a gene that causes birds to decide to fly to the warmer areas every fall, activated when it is appropriate time

Which of these hypothesis is closer to the truth?

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    $\begingroup$ The first hypothesis seems very unclear. I think you just mean that migration direction/distance/timing/etc.. could be a learned behaviour. However, you phrased it weirdly. You seem to poorly use the term macroevolution as well. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Apr 11 '16 at 23:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Remi.b That's the original meaning of "macroevolution", isn't it? The process of preserving of successful families, packs and species. So this is exactly what should be responsible for the spread of this custom. But it is'nt entirely needed for the question. $\endgroup$ – Probably Apr 12 '16 at 6:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Probably I'm not the only one that finds discussing memes in this sense a pseudoscientific endeavour (Wiki of the criticisms). I think "learned behaviour" is a better term. $\endgroup$ – James Apr 12 '16 at 7:18
  • $\begingroup$ I think the question is clear now (+1). You might want to clarify that this is a nature vs nurture (or learned vs innate) question. The answer will likely depends on the species though. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Apr 12 '16 at 14:23
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This example proves IMHO that migration is largely nature and not nurture:
In the Netherlands, white storks were bred / reintroduced. A large part (about one third?) of the reintroduced birds do not migrate, but their offspring usually does migrate see. They couldn't have learned it from their parents, that's for sure.

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  • $\begingroup$ Does it mean, that they have a circaannual biorhytms or do they detect the factors of changing weather such like temperature (if so, we could try to put them into a cold environment and see wheter they would fly south (or north in case of the southern-hemisphere birds)? $\endgroup$ – Probably Apr 16 '16 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Probably I thought your question is if the behaviour is learned or genetic. What triggers migration is a totally different question. $\endgroup$ – RHA Apr 16 '16 at 19:44
  • $\begingroup$ I'm just interested how does it work. The mechanism is a direct consequence of the genetic code. But I agree I could find it in the quoted article. $\endgroup$ – Probably Apr 16 '16 at 20:07

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