Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How Butterflies Fly Thousands Of Miles Without Getting Lost Revealed By Researchers

Date:
August 18, 2005
Source:
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Summary:
While "navigation" systems in automobiles are a fairly new (and still costly) innovation, monarch butterflies have managed for millennia to navigate their way for a distance of some 3000 miles (4800 kilometers) each fall from Canada to Mexico (and vice-versa in the spring) without losing their way. The phenomenon of long-range bird migration is a well-known one, but not in the insect world. Also, among birds their migration route is a round-trip one, which they make more than once in their lifetimes, while for the monarch it is strictly a one-way trip for each butterfly. How do these creatures do it?

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus).
Credit: Image courtesy of Iowa State University Extension

Jerusalem -- While "navigation" systems in automobiles are a fairly new (and still costly) innovation, monarch butterflies have managed for millennia to navigate their way for a distance of some 3000 miles (4800 kilometers) each fall from Canada to Mexico (and vice-versa in the spring) without losing their way.

The phenomenon of long-range bird migration is a well-known one, but not in the insect world. Also, among birds their migration route is a round-trip one, which they make more than once in their lifetimes, while for the monarch it is strictly a one-way trip for each butterfly. How do these creatures do it?

The mystery of the mechanisms involved in this remarkable phenomenon has been resolved by a team of scientists who did this by exploring the infinitesimal butterfly brain and eye tissues to uncover new insights into the biological machinery that directs this delicate creature on its lengthy flight path.

The research team, led by Prof. Steven Reppert of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, included Dr. Oren Froy, now of the Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Quality Sciences of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Others involved were from the Czech Academy of Sciences and the University of California, Irvine. Their latest findings were published in a recent issue of Neuron magazine, constituting a continuation of their earlier work, published in the journal Science.

While light in general is essential to the functioning of the "biological clock" in the butterfly brain – governing its metabolic cycles, including its "signal" to migrate -- the researchers discovered that it is specifically the ultraviolet band of light that is crucial to the creature's orientation. The butterflies have special photoreceptors for ultraviolet (UV) light in their eyes which provide them with their sense of direction.

They proved that this ultraviolet "navigation" is crucial by placing butterflies in a "flight" simulator. When a UV light filter was used in the simulator, the butterflies lost their orientation

Further probing revealed a key wiring connection between the light-detecting navigation sensors in the butterfly's eye and its brain clock Thus, it was shown that input from two interconnected systems – UV light detection in the eye and the biological clock in the brain -- together guide the butterflies "straight and true" to their destination at the appointed times in their two-month migration over thousands of miles/kilometers.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "How Butterflies Fly Thousands Of Miles Without Getting Lost Revealed By Researchers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 August 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050814173536.htm>.
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (2005, August 18). How Butterflies Fly Thousands Of Miles Without Getting Lost Revealed By Researchers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050814173536.htm
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "How Butterflies Fly Thousands Of Miles Without Getting Lost Revealed By Researchers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050814173536.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Monkeys Are Better At Math Than We Thought, Study Shows

Monkeys Are Better At Math Than We Thought, Study Shows

Newsy (Apr. 23, 2014) A Harvard University study suggests monkeys can use symbols to perform basic math calculations. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India

Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) A leopard caused panic in the city of Chandrapur on Monday when it sprung from the roof of a house and charged at rescue workers. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs

Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) Drake University hosts 35th annual Beautiful Bulldog Contest. (April 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
805-Pound Shark Caught Off The Coast Of Florida

805-Pound Shark Caught Off The Coast Of Florida

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) One Florida fisherman caught a 805-pound shark off the coast of Florida earlier this month. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins