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Wind selection and drift compensation optimize migratory pathways in a high-flying moth

Wind selection and drift compensation optimize migratory pathways in a high-flying moth

Chapman, Jason W., Reynolds, Don R., Mouritsen, Henrik, Hill, Jane K., Riley, Joe R., Sivell, Duncan, Smith, Alan D. and Woiwod, Ian P. (2008) Wind selection and drift compensation optimize migratory pathways in a high-flying moth. Current Biology, 18 (7). pp. 514-518. ISSN 0960-9822 (doi:10.1016/j.cub.2008.02.080)

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Abstract

Numerous insect species undertake regular seasonal migrations in order to exploit temporary breeding habitats [1]. These migrations are often achieved by high-altitude windborne movement at night [2–6], facilitating rapid longdistance transport, but seemingly at the cost of frequent displacement in highly disadvantageous directions (the so-called ‘‘pied piper’’ phenomenon [7]). This has lead to uncertainty about the mechanisms migrant insects use to control their migratory directions [8, 9]. Here we show that, far from being at the mercy of the wind, nocturnal moths have unexpectedly complex behavioral mechanisms that guide their migratory flight paths in seasonally-favorable directions. Using entomological radar, we demonstrate that free-flying individuals of the migratory noctuid moth Autographa gamma actively select fast, high-altitude airstreams moving in a direction that is highly beneficial for their autumn migration. They also exhibit common orientation close to the downwind direction, thus maximizing the rectilinear distance traveled. Most unexpectedly, we find that when winds are not closely aligned with the moth’s preferred heading (toward the SSW), they compensate for cross-wind drift, thus increasing the probability of reaching their overwintering range. We conclude that nocturnally migrating moths use a compass and an inherited preferred direction to optimize their migratory track.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: [1] Supplemental experimental procedures and five figures are available online at http://www.current-biology.com/cgi/content/full/18/7/514/DC1/
Uncontrolled Keywords: vertical-looking radar, high-altitude, southern Britain, insect migration, lepidoptera, orientation, temperature, songbirds, armyworm, behavior
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Agriculture, Health & Environment Department
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 11 Sep 2014 16:14
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
URI: http://gala.gre.ac.uk/id/eprint/2114

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