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How Do Monarchs Know Which Way to Fly?
Research Sheds Light on Monarch Navigation

A clever experiment by Dr. Barrie Frost and colleagues tested whether monarch butterflies use the sun as their clock and compass during migration.

Here’s what the biologists did: They collected monarchs, divided them into three groups, and put them under artificial light conditions in their lab.

The control group received light during normal daylight hours, but the two test groups were “clock-shifted.” They were exposed to 12 hours of light but not during normal daylight hours.

  • Control Group:The control group received light during normal daylight hours They received light from 7 am to 7 pm.
  • "Early" Group: This group was “clock-shifted” 6 hours early. They received light from 1 am to 1 pm. (This means that when it was actually 1 am, the daylight conditions were made to look like 7 am. When it was 1 pm the light looked like 7 pm and so on.)
  • "Late" Group: The other group was “clock-shifted” 6 hours late. They received light from 1 pm to 1 am. (This means that when it was actually 1 pm, the daylight conditions were made to look like 7 am. When it was 1 am the light looked like 7 pm and so on.)

After 5 days, the butterflies were taken outside. Their flight direction was tested under normal daylight conditions. Which way do you think each group flew?

  • Predict: What do you think happened to the monarchs? Explain your thinking.
  • Then read on...>>

 

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