Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Genetic Basis For Migration In Monarch Butterflies Uncovered

Date:
March 31, 2009
Source:
BMC Biology
Summary:
Scientists studying Eastern North American monarch butterflies have uncovered a suite of genes that may be involved in driving the butterflies to migrate towards Mexico for the winter. Their research describes 40 genes that are linked to the butterflies' compulsion to orientate themselves by an internal "sun compass" and begin the 4,000 km journey southwards.

Monarch butterflies.
Credit: iStockphoto/Paul Tessier

Scientists studying Eastern North American monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) have uncovered a suite of genes that may be involved in driving the butterflies to migrate towards Mexico for the winter. Their research describes 40 genes that are linked to the butterflies' compulsion to orientate themselves by an internal 'sun compass' and begin the 4000km journey southwards.

Steven Reppert led a team of researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School who performed behavioral and genetic analyses on summer and migratory monarch butterflies. He said, "Our data are the first to provide a link between gene expression profiles in the brain and migratory state in any animal that undergoes long-distance migration. Moreover, our results also provide the first insights into gene expression patterns that may underlie sun compass orientation, a complex process involving the integration of temporal and spatial information".

Monarch butterflies begin flying south in the fall, using their internal clock and a sun compass to orientate themselves. After spending the winter in the warmer climes of Mexico, they begin moving northwards again through the Southern United States, breeding as they go, and spending the late summer in a non-migratory state in the Northern US. Unlike summer butterflies, some of whose offspring become fall migrants, the fall insects are not reproductively active – they have smaller reproductive organs and exhibit reduced sexual behavior. This dampening of their ardour is caused by a reduction in levels of Juvenile Hormone (JH), which allows the butterflies to live longer as well as stopping them from having sex and laying eggs during their long journey south.

The authors tested whether JH levels are also responsible for flight orientation. By treating fall butterflies with a potent JH analog, they induced a summer-like reproductive state, and then looked at their oriented flight behavior in a flight simulator, and gene expression profiles in their brains. Repperts said, "We found that orientated flight behavior was independent of JH activity. Furthermore, in contrast to the non-migratory summer butterflies, the fall butterflies showed significantly different activation patterns in a suite of 40 JH-independent genes, showing that seasonal changes in genomic function help define the migratory state".


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by BMC Biology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Haisun Zhu, Robert J Gegear, Amy Casselman, Sriramana Kanginakudru and Steven M Reppert. Defining behavioral and molecular differences between summer and migratory monarch butterflies. BMC Biology, (in press)

Cite This Page:

BMC Biology. "Genetic Basis For Migration In Monarch Butterflies Uncovered." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090330200615.htm>.
BMC Biology. (2009, March 31). Genetic Basis For Migration In Monarch Butterflies Uncovered. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090330200615.htm
BMC Biology. "Genetic Basis For Migration In Monarch Butterflies Uncovered." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090330200615.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 16, 2014) Crocodile farming has been a challenge in Zimbabwe in recent years do the economic collapse and the financial crisis. But as Ciara Sutton reports one of Europe's biggest suppliers of skins to the luxury market has come up with an unusual survival strategy - vegetarian food. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A research institute in Paris somehow misplaced more than 2,000 vials of the deadly SARS virus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Three Rare White Tiger Cubs Debut at Zoo

Raw: Three Rare White Tiger Cubs Debut at Zoo

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) The Buenos Aires Zoo debuted a trio of rare white Bengal tiger cubs on Wednesday. (April 16) Video provided by AP
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