August 19, 2005 | David F. Coppedge

From Emperors to Monarchs….

If lion is king, and penguin is emperor, who would have thought a dainty insect would be monarch?  EurekAlert posted a story earlier this month too good to pass up: monarch butterflies follow the light – ultraviolet light – to their breeding grounds.  Scientists at Hebrew University, working with monarchs in a specially-designed flight simulator (see 05/09/2005, 07/09/2002), found that UV light was the key to keeping them on course.  But that’s not all: “Further probing revealed a key wiring connection between the light-detecting navigation sensors in the butterfly’s eye and its brain clock,” the article states.  “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” (emphasis added).  Think how tiny a butterfly brain is to store that kind of programming.

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Categories: Terrestrial Zoology

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