Follow your antennae! Researchers discover how Monarch butterflies navigate across North America

A Monarch butterfly set against a map of North America

In one of the most scientifically intriguing migrations known to man, the Monarch butterfly each year flies from as far as the northeast and Canada to just a few mountainous acres in Michoacan, Mexico. The roundtrip journey, evidence of which winged its way through the Brazos Valley just a few weeks ago, is like clockwork — an epic trip governed by the insects’ circadian clock and the Sun’s daily movement across the sky. And yet, basic questions about the phenomenon remain.

Unraveling the mysteries of the migration and the role of internal clocks in the process is a focus of newly hired Texas A&M University biologist Christine Merlin.

“It’s incredible how such a fragile insect can complete a long-range migration so demanding,” said Merlin, who began this fall as an assistant professor in the Department of Biology and is a member of the Center for Biological Clocks Research. “Every piece of it fascinates me, from how it occurs to why they go precisely where they go.

More at Texas A&M College Of Science

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