Monarch butterflies may have magnetic compass
by Malcolm Ritter, AP Science Writer
June 24, 2014 11:35 AM | 738 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In this Feb. 15, 2013 file photo, Monarch butterflies are collected in a net to be tested for the ophroyocystis elektroscirrha parasite that inhibits their flight, at El Capulin reserve, near Zitacuaro, Mexico. A new study published in the journal Nature Communications suggests that monarch butterflies use an internal magnetic compass to help navigate on their annual migrations from North America to central Mexico. (AP Photo/Marjorie Miller, File)
In this Feb. 15, 2013 file photo, Monarch butterflies are collected in a net to be tested for the ophroyocystis elektroscirrha parasite that inhibits their flight, at El Capulin reserve, near Zitacuaro, Mexico. A new study published in the journal Nature Communications suggests that monarch butterflies use an internal magnetic compass to help navigate on their annual migrations from North America to central Mexico. (AP Photo/Marjorie Miller, File)
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 In this Oct. 21, 2013 file photo, a monarch butterfly lands on a confetti lantana plant in San Antonio. A new study published in the journal Nature Communications suggests that monarch butterflies use an internal magnetic compass to help navigate on their annual migrations from North America to central Mexico. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
In this Oct. 21, 2013 file photo, a monarch butterfly lands on a confetti lantana plant in San Antonio. A new study published in the journal Nature Communications suggests that monarch butterflies use an internal magnetic compass to help navigate on their annual migrations from North America to central Mexico. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
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NEW YORK (AP) — A new study suggests that monarch butterflies use an internal magnetic compass to help navigate on their annual migrations from North America to central Mexico.

Scientists already knew they navigate by the sun. But the insects do just fine on very cloudy days, leading to suspicions they also use a magnetic compass, like migratory birds and sea turtles. Previous studies haven't made a clear case for that, according to authors of the new study, from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

They tethered monarchs in a chamber without any outdoor light and showed that their flight patterns responded to changes in the magnetic field. Further work suggested the compass is in the antennae.

Millions of the black-and-orange butterflies spend the winter in Mexico.

The new work was released Tuesday by the journal Nature Communications.

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Online:

Nature Communications: http://www.nature.com/ncomms



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