- Press Release Distribution

Groundbreaking study reveals oceanic seabirds chase tropical cyclones

Groundbreaking study reveals oceanic seabirds chase tropical cyclones
( A new study published today in Current Biology, "Oceanic Seabirds Chase Tropical Cyclones," reveals that the rare Desertas Petrels (Pterodroma deserta), a wide-ranging seabird in the North Atlantic, exhibit unique foraging behaviors during hurricane season. Contrary to other pelagic seabirds, these petrels do not avoid intense tropical cyclones but instead exploit the dynamic conditions for their benefit, providing new insights into the impact of cyclones on open ocean marine life.

"Initial studies suggested that seabirds either circumnavigate cyclones or seek refuge in the calm eye of the storm. However, the Desertas Petrels we tracked did neither; instead, one-third of them followed the cyclone for days, covering thousands of kilometers,” stated Francesco Ventura, lead author and a Postdoc Investigator in Biology at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). “When we saw the data, we nearly fell off our chairs. This is the first time we have observed this behavior.”

“It’s striking how well the birds know how to exploit the large-scale wind conditions over the North Atlantic for their travels,” said Caroline Ummenhofer, Associate Scientist, Physical Oceanography, at WHOI. “When you overlay the petrels’ foraging trips on top of average winds, it’s a very close match.”

The Desertas Petrels nest on the Bugio Island in Portugal, located off the western coast of North Africa. This island hosts the only known nesting colony of these pigeon-sized seabirds in the world, with fewer than 200 pairs residing on a plateau surrounded by steep cliffs. During their six-month breeding season, Desertas Petrels embark on extraordinary foraging journeys, often spending weeks at sea and flying roundtrips up to 7,500 miles across the Atlantic in search of food. They belong to the genus Pterodroma, which means "wings on the run."

“We correlated the birds' locations with intensifying storm conditions, including waves up to 8 meters high and wind speeds of 100 kilometers per hour,” said Ventura. “Upon encountering strong winds, the birds reduced ground speed, likely by spending less time in flight to avoid injury to their wings. In addition, the wakes of the storms provided predictably favorable wind conditions with higher tailwind support than alternative routes. Impressively, none of the birds we tracked were harmed by the storms and there was no incidence of nest desertion.”

The petrels pursue small fish, squid, and crustaceans that typically dwell at depths of 600 to 3,000 feet. Since they cannot dive to such depths, these seabirds have to wait until nightfall when their prey ascends closer to the surface.

“As we’ve now discovered, Desertas Petrels follow hurricanes where prey have accumulated closer to the surface in the wakes of the storms,” said Ummenhofer.

The study shows that cyclone wakes provided enhanced foraging conditions, with sharp drops in sea surface temperature and striking increases in surface chlorophyll. These changes suggest enhanced ocean mixing and productivity, which presumably increase prey abundance and accessibility for surface-feeding petrels.

“One of the interesting aspects of the interaction of a tropical cyclone and the ocean is the intense vertical mixing in the upper ocean layers caused by very strong winds and huge breaking seas,” said Philip Richardson, Emeritus, Physical Oceanography at WHOI and a co-author on the paper. “The cyclonic winds can cause a divergence in the upper layer that moves cooler, deeper water toward the surface.”

“The cyclones present a highly valuable foraging opportunity for Desertas Petrels because the storms churn up mesopelagic prey from deep within the vertical column, giving the seabirds an easy meal at the surface,” explained Ventura. “While storms are typically seen as destructive, particularly in coastal areas, our research reveals that functional perturbance driven by storms can create new opportunities. We’re advancing our understanding of how petrels navigate the open ocean to find food.”

“We now have a fresh perspective on hurricanes' impact on marine ecosystems through the eyes of an apex predator,” said Ummenhofer. “This study provides valuable insights into the resilience and foraging strategies of pelagic seabirds in the face of extreme weather events.”

While cyclones are known to dramatically affect oceanic and coastal ecosystems, their impacts on pelagic marine life are poorly understood. This research reveals how higher predators like Desertas Petrels adapt their foraging strategies in the dynamic ocean environment and utilize cyclone-induced oceanographic changes to their advantage.


This research was made possible by the WHOI Postdoctoral Scholar Program with funding from the John E. Sawyer Fund and the John H. Steele Endowment and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Endowed Fund for Innovative Research at WHOI.





Francesco Ventura, Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA

Neele Sander, Department of Physical Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA, and Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Geomar Helmholtz-Center for Ocean Research, Kiel, Germany

Paulo Catry, Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre (MARE), Aquatic Research Network (ARNET), and Ispa Instituto Universitário, Lisbon, Portugal

Ewan Wakefield, Department of Geography, Durham University, Durham, UK

Federico De Pascalis, Area Avifauna Migratrice, Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale (ISPRA), Ozzano dell’Emilia, Italy

Philip L. Richardson, Department of Physical Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA

José Pedro Granadeiro, Centre for Environmental and Marine Studies (CESAM), Departmento de Biologia Animal, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal

Mónica C. Silva, Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes (cE3c), Departmento de Biologia Animal, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal

Caroline C. Ummenhofer,  Department of Physical Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA

About Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930, its primary mission is to understand the ocean and its interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate an understanding of the ocean’s role in the changing global environment. WHOI’s pioneering discoveries stem from an ideal combination of science and engineering—one that has made it one of the most trusted and technically advanced leaders in basic and applied ocean research and exploration anywhere. WHOI is known for its multidisciplinary approach, superior ship operations, and unparalleled deep-sea robotics capabilities. We play a leading role in ocean observation and operate the most extensive suite of data-gathering platforms in the world. Top scientists, engineers, and students collaborate on more than 800 concurrent projects worldwide—both above and below the waves—pushing the boundaries of knowledge and possibility. For more information, please visit



[Attachments] See images for this press release:
Groundbreaking study reveals oceanic seabirds chase tropical cyclones Groundbreaking study reveals oceanic seabirds chase tropical cyclones 2


Study examines tree adaptability to climate change

Study examines tree adaptability to climate change
During his recent yearlong sabbatical, Daniel Laughlin led a study that found trees can sustain life in temperatures higher or lower than where they are currently growing. While tree species appear to prefer distinct climatic conditions, the true nature of these preferences is obscured by species interactions and dispersal, which limit tree species’ ranges. “We were amazed. The result was crystal clear, and that doesn’t always happen in ecology,” says Laughlin, a professor in the University of Wyoming Department of Botany. “We found that tree species could grow and survive at one common moderate temperature, even though many ...

Advocate Health champions health equity through new, innovative dementia care model  

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Advocate Health has been selected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to participate in the Guiding an Improved Dementia Experience (GUIDE) Model, aimed to support advanced dementia patients and their caregivers in bridging the gaps associated with inequalities in dementia care. Following years of neurocognitive disorders research pioneered by Advocate Health's academic core,  Wake Forest University School of Medicine,  patients across the health system’s footprint now will benefit from the GUIDE Model’s new standardized approach to care for patients with dementia and their caregivers. Only 400 health organizations ...

Study points at novel approach to treat Group 3 medulloblastoma

A team of researchers at Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children’s Hospital, the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and collaborating institutions has identified and located a population of stem-like cells that initiates and maintains Group 3 medulloblastoma (Gr3-MB) in the developing brain. Gr3-MB is one of the most aggressive forms of brain cancer in children and is associated with metastatic spread and poor survival. The researchers showed that eliminating the small population of stem-like ...

Could a dietary fiber supplement offer long-awaited treatment for food allergy sufferers?

A study from the University of Michigan has identified a potential new treatment for food allergies in inulin, a naturally occurring plant fiber commonly used as a supplement, a prebiotic in soda, a replacement for sweeteners and for other products and purposes.   In what appears to be a major advancement that offers the promise of relief to food allergy sufferers around the world, the paper published in Nature Materials describes inulin gel-based oral immunotherapy's success in stopping allergic reactions in mice by, in part, targeting bacteria in the gut. The gel prevented severe allergic reactions ...

The new paradigm in volunteering -- and how organizations can adapt to "neither-growing-nor-fading" brand relationships

Researchers from Emlyon Business School and HEC Montreal published a new Journal of Marketing study that examines the new breed of volunteers who often show a weaker sense of affiliation with organizations and how best to engage them for mutual benefit. The study, forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing, is titled “Managing Brand Relationship Plurality: Insights from the Nonprofit Sector” and is authored by Verena Gruber and Jonathan Deschênes. Volunteers stand as vital pillars in the operation and survival of nonprofit organizations. Across ...

From empowering women to being empowered by women: A gendered social innovation framework for tourism-led development initiatives

From empowering women to being empowered by women: A gendered social innovation framework for tourism-led development initiatives
Gendered Social Innovation: Social Change and Female Entrepreneurship in Tourism  Gendered social innovation is a crucial process that intertwines social change with female entrepreneurship, empowerment, and the evolution of work among women in the tourism industry.  Questioning Common Perceptions  Why question the usual perceptions about the role and status of women entrepreneurs in a globalized and capitalist industry? Where does power, creativity, and innovation truly reside in tourism development?  Often, discussions about gender equality in tourism revolve around a vision that confines women to the role of service providers, perpetuating stereotypes ...

Survey finds most women with uterine fibroids are offered hysterectomies over minimally invasive treatments

FAIRFAX, Va. (July 9, 2024)— Among women who have personally been diagnosed with uterine fibroids, more than half (53%) were presented with a hysterectomy, while fewer than 1 in 5 (20%) were presented with other less invasive options such as over-the-counter NSAIDs (19%), uterine fibroid embolization (17%), oral contraceptives (17%), and endometrial ablation (17%), according to new survey data by The Harris Poll on behalf of the Society of Interventional Radiology. Moreover, some women (17%) mistakenly ...

Patient out-of-pocket costs for type 2 diabetes medications when aging into Medicare

About The Study: In this cohort study of individuals with type 2 diabetes (T2D), the increase in spending upon reaching age 65 (when most people enroll in Medicare) was associated with patient coinsurance in the coverage gap and catastrophic coverage phases of Medicare Part D. The increased patient cost burden at age 65 and a modest reduction in overall T2D drug utilization suggest that as people with T2D age into Medicare, there is potentially an increase in nonadherence and diabetes complications.  Corresponding Author: To contact the corresponding author, Douglas ...

Prenatal exposure to ambient air pollution and cerebral palsy

About The Study: In this large cohort study of singleton full term births in Canada, prenatal ambient PM2.5 exposure was associated with an increased risk of cerebral palsy in offspring. Further studies are needed to explore this association and its potential biological pathways, which could advance the identification of environmental risk factors of cerebral palsy in early life.  Corresponding Author: To contact the corresponding author, Carmen Messerlian, Ph.D., email To access the embargoed study: Visit our For The Media website ...

Whale remains tracked to highlight sustainable disposal benefits

Whale remains tracked to highlight sustainable disposal benefits
A string of whale strandings on the East Australian Coastline and questions around the appropriate disposal methods for the remains has prompted a new study that highlights a sustainable, cultural and ecosystem beneficial offshore removal or decomposition.  Dr Olaf Meynecke, from Griffith University’s Whales and Climate Research Program, led the case study, in which a 14m female humpback whale was found floating deceased – likely to due to ship strike – in the coastal waters off Queensland’s Noosa Heads in July 2023.  The remains were intercepted before washing up on the shoreline, then repositioned 30km offshore ...


Generative AI tools like Pix2Pix–BicycleGAN are revolutionizing landscape design by enhancing masterplan generation and rendering

Expanding APAC presence, Insilico Medicine seals strategic collaboration on AI-driven mash therapy development with Korean Biotech Therasid Bioscience

When it comes to butterflies, people prefer pretty ones. That’s a problem for scientists.

UBC Okanagan study raises concerns about partner violence in queer relationships

Human-infecting parasite produces sterile soldiers like ants and termites

The unintended consequences of success against malaria

Taco-shaped arthropod from Royal Ontario Museum’s Burgess Shale fossils gives new insights into the history of the first mandibulates

Butterflies accumulate enough static electricity to attract pollen without contact, new research finds

Eyes for Love: Searching for light and a mate in the deep, dark sea, male dragonfishes grow larger eyes than the females they seek

PNNL scientists tap nation’s fastest computers to explore critical science questions

Peri-operative care of transgender and gender-diverse individuals: new guidance for clinicians and departments published

Clinical psychologist’s book addresses largely ignored problem: social anxiety

Researchers leveraging AI to train (robotic) dogs to respond to their masters

Drawing water from dry air

Combining trapped atoms and photonics for new quantum devices

A new way to make element 116 opens the door to heavier atoms

New genetic tool could identify drug targets for diseases associated with metabolic dysfunction

Plant Biologist Siobhan Brady named HHMI Investigator

Long-acting injectable cabotegravir for HIV prevention is safe in pregnancy

Large language models don’t behave like people, even though we may expect them to

NREL researchers highlight opportunities for manufacturing perovskite solar panels with a long-term vision

Top Medicare advantage plans less available in disadvantaged areas

Better carbon storage better carbon storage with stacked geology with stacked geology

Sharp temperature reduction for quantum dots in polymer by highly efficient heat dissipation pathways

UAF researcher creates way to detect elusive volcanic vibrations

Lissajous pattern multi-pass cell: Enhancing high sensitivity and simultaneous dual-gas LITES sensing

Asexual reproduction usually leads to a lack of genetic diversity. Not for these ants.

Mini lungs make major COVID-19 discoveries possible

Exploratory analysis associates HIV drug abacavir with elevated cardiovascular disease risk in large global trial

Control of light–matter interactions in two-dimensional materials with nanoparticle-on-mirror structures

[] Groundbreaking study reveals oceanic seabirds chase tropical cyclones