UMMS researcher describes new insights into the migration of butterflies in Neuron

May 5, 2005

Steven M. Reppert , MD, the Higgins Family Professor of Neuroscience and professor and chair of neurobiology, and colleagues have gained new insight into how the monarch butterfly makes its dramatic annual migration. Their previous findings demonstrated that polarized ultraviolet light is critical for butterfly navigation. In this new work published in the May 5 issue of the journal Neuron , Dr. Reppert and his team discovered that ultraviolet photoreceptors dominate the part of the monarch eye that specializes in polarized light detection. The research also identified the location of the butterfly's circadian clock—key genes responsible for the clock's molecular function were expressed in a brain region called the dorsolateral protocerebrum. It is in this region of the brain that neural fibers connect the butterfly’s circadian clock to polarization photoreceptors in the eye.

"This pathway has not been described in any other insect, and it may be a hallmark feature of butterflies that use a time-compensated sun compass," Reppert and his colleagues write in Neuron.

Read more about Dr. Reppert’s research in the news. 

Butterfly's navigation secret revealed 

How monarch butterflies are wired for navigation 

Study Sheds Light on Butterfly Migration 


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