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Scientists Discovered That Butterflies Use A Magnetic Compass for Navigation

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The BBC published a story about how monarch butterflies use a magnetic compass for cross-continent migration:

To test for this, the scientists strapped butterflies into a flight simulator, allowing them to point in any direction while flying “on the spot”.

They surrounded the chamber with a magnetic coil system and varied the inclination angle of the field – effectively changing the position of the equator and the poles.

The monarchs responded by turning in the direction they perceived as south.

Crucially – the magnetic compass only worked when the butterflies were also exposed to light in the ultraviolet-A/blue range. This was not present in previous magnetic experiments with monarchs – explaining why they failed to find evidence of such a compass, the researchers believe.

“To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of the use of an inclination magnetic compass by a long-distance migratory insect,” said Prof Reppert.

Read more.


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