Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Monarch butterflies migration path tracked by generations for first time

07.08.2013
Everyone knows all about the epic breeding journey taken each year by generations of monarch butterflies between Mexico and Canada, right? Not so fast, say researchers including University of Guelph biologists.

Until now, linking adult butterflies and their birthplaces during a complicated annual migration spanning all of eastern North America and involving up to five generations of the iconic insects had eluded scientists.


A new study from the University of Guelph tracks monarch butterflies migration pattern, and follows them by generation. This study provides some clues as to why the butterflies population has been dropping recently.

Credit: University of Guelph - Jessica Linton

Now for the first time, researchers have mapped that migration pattern across the continent over an entire breeding season. That information might help conserve a creature increasingly threatened by loss of habitat and food sources, says Tyler Flockhart, a PhD student in U of G's Department of Integrative Biology.

"This tells us where individuals go and where they're coming from," he said.

Flockhart is lead author of a paper published [online Aug. 7: embargo] in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B with Prof. Ryan Norris and co-authors based in Saskatchewan, Colorado and Australia.

Their new study traced successive generations of adult monarchs to their birthplaces between the southern United States and Ontario over a single breeding season.

Before this, scientists had only a rough idea of those annual colonization patterns, said Prof. Ryan Norris, Integrative Biology. "You could have a monarch showing up in Ontario, but we didn't know exactly where it came from."

Tracking migration patterns is vital to understanding why monarch numbers are declining and predicting the effects on the insects of milkweed plant loss, habitat destruction and other factors, he said.

In 2012, the smallest-ever population of monarchs was recorded in their Mexican overwintering grounds. "They've been declining steadily," said Flockhart.

Monarchs normally show up in southern Ontario by June or July. This summer, few had been sighted here by the end of July.

The researchers used chemical markers in butterfly wings to match "waves" of insect generations with their birthplaces. Monarch larvae eat only milkweed. The plant's chemical signature varies from place to place, allowing scientists to pinpoint a butterfly's birthplace by analyzing those chemical elements in its wings.

Flockhart spent summer 2011 following the northward migration and netting more than 800 monarchs for analysis. Beginning a road trip in southern Texas, he logged 35,000 kilometres across 17 states and two provinces. "As far as I know, it's the broadest sample of monarch butterflies through an entire breeding season across North America."

Monarch colonies overwinter in Mexico. During the breeding season beginning in April, successive generations were born in Texas and Oklahoma, then in the U.S. Midwest, and then over a broad area spanning the northeast coast and the Midwest.

One key stop is the "corn belt" in the U.S Midwest. There a breeding "explosion" sends vast numbers of adults in several directions, including to Canada, said Norris.

He said loss of milkweed plants and planting of genetically modified corn and soy in the Midwest have affected monarch survival. "If habitats in the Midwest continue to decline, then monarchs will lose the ability to expand the breeding range, including those butterflies that end up here in Ontario."

It's also important to protect breeding habitat in other locations, he said, including parts of southern Texas that supply future generations to breed in the Midwest.

"To lose monarchs would be a huge blow to the environment and to the public. People can easily identify monarchs. It might be the first butterfly they see or catch as a child, and it's often the first story they hear about how animals migrate."

Adds Flockhart: "Every school kid knows about monarchs."

Ryan Norris | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uoguelph.ca

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth
09.12.2016 | Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

nachricht Plant-based substance boosts eyelash growth
09.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Polymerforschung IAP

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>