Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Migrating moths and songbirds travel at similar rates

Date:
March 10, 2011
Source:
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Summary:
Researchers report the surprising finding that night-flying moths are able to match their songbird counterparts for travel speed and direction during their annual migrations, but they use quite different strategies to do so.

A study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B by researchers at Rothamsted Research (an institute of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council), and the universities of Lund (Sweden), Greenwich and York, reports the surprising finding that night-flying moths are able to match their songbird counterparts for travel speed and direction during their annual migrations but they use quite different strategies to do so -- information that adds to our understanding of the lifestyle of such insects, which are important for maintaining biodiversity and food security.

Related Articles


This new international study of moth migration over the UK, and songbird migration over Sweden, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Swedish Research Council, shows that songbirds (mainly Willow Warblers) and moths (Silver Y moths) have very similar migration speeds -- between 30 km and 65 km per hour -- and both travel approximately northwards in the spring and southwards in the autumn.

Dr Jason Chapman, Rothamsted Research, one of the lead authors on the paper said "Songbirds such as warblers and thrushes are able to fly unassisted about four times faster than migratory moths, which might appear to be largely at the mercy of the winds. So we had assumed that songbirds would travel much faster over the same distance. It was a great surprise when we found out the degree of overlap between the travel speeds -- the mean values are almost identical, which is really remarkable."

The discovery gives fresh insight into exactly how moths are able to travel in their billions from summer breeding grounds in the UK and elsewhere in northern Europe to their winter quarters in the Mediterranean region and sub-Saharan Africa, thousands of kilometres away. This is important information in the context of declining moth populations and a critical need for pollinating insects to ensure maximum yields of food crops in the face of a potential food security crisis -- the more we understand about the lifecycle and lifestyle of these insects, the better we can understand and mitigate the challenges they face for survival.

The team used specially-designed radars to track the travel speeds and directions of many thousands of individual Silver Y moths and songbirds on their night-time spring and autumn migrations.

The similarity in speed results from contrasting strategies: moths fly only when tailwinds are favourable, so gaining the maximum degree of wind assistance; whereas birds fly on winds from a variety of directions, and consequently receive less assistance. Our findings therefore demonstrate that moths and songbirds have evolved very different behavioural solutions to the challenge of moving great distances in a seasonally-beneficial direction in a short period of time.

Professor Jane Hill, who led the team at the University of York, said: "We know that many animals migrate north in spring to take advantage of summer breeding conditions in northern Europe, before returning south in winter. Given the huge differences in size and flight ability between moths and birds, we were surprised that by taking advantage of suitable winds, moths can travel so quickly.

"Migrant insects are tending to become more abundant in northern Europe, whereas many species of migrant songbirds are undergoing serious declines. These contrasting fortunes might be partly explained by the highly efficient migration strategies employed by insects that we demonstrate in this new study."

Professor Douglas Kell, Chief Executive, BBSRC said "Insects play a number of very important roles, including the pollination of food crops and other plants. They can also be a problem, causing damage to plants that can lead to yield losses. The more we can understand about insects -- how they live, reproduce, find food, become prey for other animals, and more -- the better we can tackle some of the problems they both cause and alleviate."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. T. Alerstam, J. W. Chapman, J. Backman, A. D. Smith, H. Karlsson, C. Nilsson, D. R. Reynolds, R. H. G. Klaassen, J. K. Hill. Convergent patterns of long-distance nocturnal migration in noctuid moths and passerine birds. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2011.0058

Cite This Page:

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. "Migrating moths and songbirds travel at similar rates." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110309073726.htm>.
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. (2011, March 10). Migrating moths and songbirds travel at similar rates. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110309073726.htm
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. "Migrating moths and songbirds travel at similar rates." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110309073726.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) Polish scientists isolate bacteria from earthworm intestines which they say may be used in antibiotics and cancer treatments. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Existing Chemical Compounds Could Revive Failing Antibiotics, Says Danish Scientist

Existing Chemical Compounds Could Revive Failing Antibiotics, Says Danish Scientist

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) A team of scientists led by Danish chemist Jorn Christensen says they have isolated two chemical compounds within an existing antipsychotic medication that could be used to help a range of failing antibiotics work against killer bacterial infections, such as Tuberculosis. Jim Drury went to meet him. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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