Geography of North America Funnels Monarch Butterfly into Mexico

Geography of North America Funnels Monarch Butterfly into Mexico

Neuroscientists recently documented that the monarch butterflies of eastern North America do not rely on fancy navigational strategies. They just fly with a general southwest orientation till the time they reach Mexico City.

The geography of Mexico City, luckily, funnels the monarch butterflies into Mexico. They have a one-track migratory mind that leads them on a massive migration. However, no living butterfly ever completes the entire migration to Mexico and back. The monarchs pass the instinct to fly to the southwest on to the next generation.

The information passed on to the next generation enables the butterflies to complete their massive migration that begins as far away as New England and Canada for some monarchs.

A team of scientists captured butterflies in Alberta, Canada, to test the monarch's migratory strategy. The butterflies were transported to 2,500 kilometers west to so Ontario. The butterflies were found to fly southwest in both the locations.

The scientists attached tiny metal rods to their backs in order to measure the orientation. A tracking system with computer software was used to figure out the monarch's direction.

The monarch's migrate 4,500 kilometers each fall to gather in Mexican groves that they have never seen before. The study led the researchers to understand that the monarch's only use a built-in compass calibrated to sun to navigate.

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