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Farmed Monarchs Can't Navigate - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Farmed Monarchs Can't Navigate
This study shows that monarch butterflies need to grow up in the wild to develop their navigational abilities.  Farmed monarchs from labs fly in random directions instead of migrating south as weather cools.  So do wild monarchs raised by humans.  Somehow, they're getting information from the environment that gets lost in captivity, even when humans make diligent efforts to recreate natural conditions.

On the downside, this means people shouldn't try to raise wild eggs or caterpillars for release.  It doesn't increase the rate of successful migration.

On the upside, this tells us something vital and subtle about how migration and navigation work in monarchs.  Followup studies may be able to determine what that instinct is, how and when it develops, what disrupts it, and so on.  This could explain why the migration is failing so badly.  It may not just be habitat loss -- if something is screwing up navigation, we need to know what so we can stop doing it.

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4 comments or Leave a comment
From: rhodielady_47 Date: June 27th, 2019 06:11 am (UTC) (Link)
What got me was the lady who reported that just 3-4 DAYS inside was enough to mess with their migration ability...
You have to wonder if maybe the butterfly larvae are sensitive to the electromagnetic fields inside our houses or something.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 27th, 2019 06:14 am (UTC) (Link)

Hmm ...

That could do it. A modern house has so much wiring, it's almost like a sloppy Faraday cage.

I had also wondered about things like wind direction and content, sun pattern, polarization of light, etc. You'd have to do a dozen different experiments, each trying to block only one thing at a time, to figure out the one(s) that do the trick.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: June 27th, 2019 11:52 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm ...

And Heaven forbid it should be a combination of three or more....
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 27th, 2019 07:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm ...

The more complex the causality, the more difficult it becomes to pin down.

However, I think that's less likely than a single or dual mechanism. The problem is occurring in many different places. That means the flaw must be present in all of those. So it's probably something ubiquitous in human structures that doesn't also occur outside. Given the large differences between a lab and a living room or garage, it is unlikely that a combination of factors would repeat exactly across all of those.
4 comments or Leave a comment