Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Wing design proves key factor in determining migration success of Monarch butterflies

Date:
June 4, 2014
Source:
De Gruyter
Summary:
Each fall, millions of monarch butterflies make a spectacular journey from the eastern parts of North America to reach their overwintering grounds in Mexico. Researchers have long known that not all butterflies successfully reach their destination. Now scientists provide some crucial answers on what it takes for Monarchs to complete the trip. It turns out - it's all in the wings.

Monarch butterfly (stock image). While prior studies have examined how monarch wing size varies within a migratory season, this study went beyond to include specific measures of wing shape and color that were obtained using fine-scale computer software.
Credit: vitaly / Fotolia

Each fall, millions of monarch butterflies make a spectacular journey from the eastern parts of North America to reach their overwintering grounds in Mexico. Researchers have long known that not all butterflies successfully reach their destination. Now scientists from the University of Georgia, in Athens, provide some crucial answers on what it takes for Monarchs to complete the trip. It turns out -- it's all in the wings.

In the article "Variation in wing characteristics of monarch butterflies during migration" published earlier this month in Animal Migration, Dara A. Satterfield and Andrew K. Davis describe for the first time a close link between migration timing and optimal wing design in the migratory butterfly. They discovered that monarchs that fall behind in the migration (and which might not survive) tend to have wings with less-than-ideal designs.

The paper, which appears in the open access journal, by De Gruyter Open, analyzes how the size, shape and color of the wings differ among a collection of migrant monarch butterflies. While prior studies have examined how monarch wing size varies within a migratory season, this study went beyond to include specific measures of wing shape and color that were obtained using fine-scale computer software.

The findings provide answers to one long-standing question regarding monarch migration -- that is, why do some monarchs survive the migration and not others?

The researchers captured monarch butterflies as they migrated through northern Georgia (USA) in the fall of 2010. Each monarch was scanned with a flatbed scanner to produce a digital copy of their wings. Computer software was then used to measure features of the wings, such as the size, shape and shade of orange pigmentation. This information was compared for monarchs that were captured early against those captured late in the migration.

The results of this project showed that early migrants not only tend to have larger wings, but they are also more elongated -- both of which are features that promote long-distance migration. Early monarchs also tended to have redder wing colors. This conclusion is consistent with the prior work, which has shown that monarchs with redder wings tend to fly farther. For monarchs, the degree of redness is therefore an indicator of superior flight performance.

The monarchs that migrated the latest were likely to be small, have less elongated and paler wings, suggesting that these features slow down the migratory pace. These stragglers presumably fell behind in the migratory race. In fact, some monarchs migrated so late that they probably failed to reach their overwintering destination.

This paper provides evidence of the importance of optimal wing characteristics for migration. So far, this trait has been demonstrated in connection with migratory birds, but as far the monarch butterflies are concerned, it appears to be novel. According to the authors, the earliest migrants have the highest chance of success in reaching the winter home, and these monarchs should be prioritized for scientific studies and for conservation purposes.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Dara A. Satterfield, Andrew K. Davis. Variation in wing characteristics of monarch butterflies during migration: Earlier migrants have redder and more elongated wings. Animal Migration, 2014; 2 (1) DOI: 10.2478/ami-2014-0001

Cite This Page:

De Gruyter. "Wing design proves key factor in determining migration success of Monarch butterflies." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140604093555.htm>.
De Gruyter. (2014, June 4). Wing design proves key factor in determining migration success of Monarch butterflies. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140604093555.htm
De Gruyter. "Wing design proves key factor in determining migration success of Monarch butterflies." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140604093555.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

AP (Sep. 20, 2014) The San Diego Zoo has welcomed two Cheetah cubs to its Safari Park. The nearly three-week-old female cubs are being hand fed and are receiving around the clock care. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) 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