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Index > News Blog > News > ScienceDaily: Brain 'GPS' Illuminated in Migratory Monarch Butterflies

ScienceDaily: Brain 'GPS' Illuminated in Migratory Monarch Butterflies

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A new study takes a close look at the brain of the migratory monarch butterfly to better understand how these remarkable insects use an internal compass and skylight cues to navigate from eastern North America to Mexico each fall. The research, published by Cell Press in the January 27 issue of the journal Neuron, provides key insights into how ambiguous sensory signals can be integrated in the brain to guide complex navigation.

Previous research has shown that migrants use a time-compensated "sun compass" to maintain a southerly direction during flight. "In general, this sun compass mechanism proposes that skylight cues providing directional information are sensed by the eyes and that this sensory information is then transmitted to a sun compass system in the brain," explains senior study author, Dr. Steven Reppert from the University of Massachusetts Medical School. "There, information from both eyes is integrated and time compensated for the sun's movement by a circadian clock so that flight direction is constantly adjusted to maintain a southerly bearing over the day."


Picture by Kenneth Dwain Harrelson licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 27 January 2011 00:45