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 Human skin is an important source of ammonia emissions
27.05.2020 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie

nachricht Biotechnology: Triggered by light, a novel way to switch on an enzyme
27.05.2020 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Biotechnology: Triggered by light, a novel way to switch on an enzyme

In living cells, enzymes drive biochemical metabolic processes enabling reactions to take place efficiently. It is this very ability which allows them to be used as catalysts in biotechnology, for example to create chemical products such as pharmaceutics. Researchers now identified an enzyme that, when illuminated with blue light, becomes catalytically active and initiates a reaction that was previously unknown in enzymatics. The study was published in "Nature Communications".

Enzymes: they are the central drivers for biochemical metabolic processes in every living cell, enabling reactions to take place efficiently. It is this very...

Im Focus: New double-contrast technique picks up small tumors on MRI

Early detection of tumors is extremely important in treating cancer. A new technique developed by researchers at the University of California, Davis offers a significant advance in using magnetic resonance imaging to pick out even very small tumors from normal tissue. The work is published May 25 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

researchers at the University of California, Davis offers a significant advance in using magnetic resonance imaging to pick out even very small tumors from...

Im Focus: I-call - When microimplants communicate with each other / Innovation driver digitization - "Smart Health“

Microelectronics as a key technology enables numerous innovations in the field of intelligent medical technology. The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT coordinates the BMBF cooperative project "I-call" realizing the first electronic system for ultrasound-based, safe and interference-resistant data transmission between implants in the human body.

When microelectronic systems are used for medical applications, they have to meet high requirements in terms of biocompatibility, reliability, energy...

Im Focus: When predictions of theoretical chemists become reality

Thomas Heine, Professor of Theoretical Chemistry at TU Dresden, together with his team, first predicted a topological 2D polymer in 2019. Only one year later, an international team led by Italian researchers was able to synthesize these materials and experimentally prove their topological properties. For the renowned journal Nature Materials, this was the occasion to invite Thomas Heine to a News and Views article, which was published this week. Under the title "Making 2D Topological Polymers a reality" Prof. Heine describes how his theory became a reality.

Ultrathin materials are extremely interesting as building blocks for next generation nano electronic devices, as it is much easier to make circuits and other...

Im Focus: Rolling into the deep

Scientists took a leukocyte as the blueprint and developed a microrobot that has the size, shape and moving capabilities of a white blood cell. Simulating a blood vessel in a laboratory setting, they succeeded in magnetically navigating the ball-shaped microroller through this dynamic and dense environment. The drug-delivery vehicle withstood the simulated blood flow, pushing the developments in targeted drug delivery a step further: inside the body, there is no better access route to all tissues and organs than the circulatory system. A robot that could actually travel through this finely woven web would revolutionize the minimally-invasive treatment of illnesses.

A team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS) in Stuttgart invented a tiny microrobot that resembles a white blood cell...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium AWK'21 will take place on June 10 and 11, 2021

07.04.2020 | Event News

International Coral Reef Symposium in Bremen Postponed by a Year

06.04.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

New 5G switch provides 50 times more energy efficiency than currently exists

27.05.2020 | Information Technology

Return of the Blob: Surprise link found to edge turbulence in fusion plasma

27.05.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

Upwards with the “bubble shuttle”: How sea floor microbes get involved with methane reduction in the water column

27.05.2020 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>