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Tue Jun 24, 2014, 03:08 PM

UMMS scientists show that monarch butterflies employ a magnetic compass during migration

PUBLIC RELEASE DATE: 24-Jun-2014

UMMS scientists show that monarch butterflies employ a magnetic compass during migration

Study published in Nature Communications finds inclination compass in monarchs responds to UVA light

WORCESTER, MA – Each fall millions of monarch butterflies use a sophisticated navigation system to transverse 2,000 miles from breeding sites across the eastern United States to an overwintering habitat in specific groves of fir trees in central Mexico. Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and Worcester Polytechnic Institute have identified a new component of this complex system. They reported in Nature Communications that monarchs use a light-dependent, inclination magnetic compass to help them orient southward during migration.

"Taken as a whole, our study reveals another fascinating aspect of the monarch butterfly migratory behavior," said senior study author Steven Reppert, MD, the Higgins Family Professor of Neuroscience and distinguished professor of neurobiology at UMass Medical School. "Greater knowledge of the mechanisms underlying the fall migration may well aid in its preservation, currently threatened by climate change and by the continuing loss of milkweed and overwintering habitats. A new vulnerability to now consider is the potential disruption of the magnetic compass in the monarchs by human-induced electromagnetic noise, which can also affect geomagnetic orientation in migratory birds."

Co-author Robert Gegear, PhD, assistant professor of biology and biotechnology at WPI, explained, "Our study shows that monarchs use a sophisticated magnetic inclination compass system for navigation similar to that used by much larger-brained migratory vertebrates such as birds and sea turtles."

Monarchs use a time-compensated sun compass in their antenna to help them make their 2,000 mile migratory journey to overwintering sites. During the absence of daylight cues, such as under dense cloud cover, migrants have been, surprisingly, seen flying in the expected southerly direction. It's been hypothesized that monarchs use geomagnetic cues to help navigate when day light cues are unavailable to them during migration.

More:
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-06/uomm-uss062414.php

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Reply UMMS scientists show that monarch butterflies employ a magnetic compass during migration (Original post)
Judi Lynn Jun 2014 OP
Judi Lynn Jun 2014 #1
postulater Jun 2014 #2

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Tue Jun 24, 2014, 03:15 PM

1. Monarch butterfly uses magnetic, Sun compasses: study

Monarch butterfly uses magnetic, Sun compasses: study
24 Jun 2014


[font size=1]
AFP / Mario Vazquez

A file photo taken on December 10, 2008 shows
monarch butterflies at the Sierra del Chincua
sancturay in Angangueo, in the Mexican state of
Michoacán[/font]

The North American monarch butterfly uses the Sun as well as Earth's magnetic field as navigational tools for its famous long-distance migration, scientists said Tuesday.

The insects with their characteristic orange-and-black wings flutter thousands of kilometres each year from the United States and southern Canada to the Michoacan mountains in central Mexico, where they overwinter.

The butterflies, whose Latin name is Danaus plexippus, have long been known to use a type of solar compass in the brain.

Yet, curiously, they are also able to migrate when skies are heavily overcast, which suggested co-reliance on a magnetic compass.

Now, biologists from Massachusetts say they have found evidence for this, making the butterfly the first long-distance migratory insect thought to use magnetic navigation.

They placed monarchs in a flight simulator, which they surrounded with different artificial magnetic fields to test the insects' directional sense.

More:
http://www.afp.com/en/news/monarch-butterfly-uses-magnetic-sun-compasses-study

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Tue Jun 24, 2014, 03:19 PM

2. Monarchs are the new canaries.

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