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Wind-related orientation patterns in diurnal, crepuscular and nocturnal high-altitude insect migrants

Wind-related orientation patterns in diurnal, crepuscular and nocturnal high-altitude insect migrants

Hu, Gao, Lim, Ka Sing, Reynolds, Don R. ORCID: 0000-0001-8749-7491, Reynolds, Andy M. and Chapman, Jason W. (2016) Wind-related orientation patterns in diurnal, crepuscular and nocturnal high-altitude insect migrants. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 10:32. pp. 1-8. ISSN 1662-5153 (Online) (doi:

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Most insect migrants fly at considerable altitudes (hundreds of meters above the ground) where they utilize fast-flowing winds to achieve rapid and comparatively long-distance transport. The nocturnal aerial migrant fauna has been well studied with entomological radars, and many studies have demonstrated that flight orientations are frequently grouped around a common direction in a range of nocturnal insect migrants. Common orientation typically occurs close to the downwind direction (thus ensuring that a large component of the insects' self-powered speed is directed downstream), and in nocturnal insects at least, the downwind headings are seemingly maintained by direct detection of wind-related turbulent cues. Despite being far more abundant and speciose, the day-flying windborne migrant fauna has been much less studied by radar; thus the frequency of wind-related common orientation patterns and the sensory mechanisms involved in their formation remain to be established. Here, we analyze a large dataset of >600,000 radar-detected "medium-sized" windborne insect migrants (body mass from 10 to 70 mg), flying hundreds of meters above southern UK, during the afternoon, in the period around sunset, and in the middle of the night. We found that wind-related common orientation was almost ubiquitous during the day (present in 97% of all “migration events” analyzed), and was also frequent at sunset (85%) and at night (81%). Headings were systematically offset to the right of the flow at night-time (as predicted from the use of turbulence cues for flow assessment), but there was no directional bias in the offsets during the day or at sunset. Orientation "performance” significantly increased with increasing flight altitude throughout the day and night. We conclude by discussing sensory mechanisms which most likely play a role in the selection and maintenance of wind-related flight headings.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: "This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution and reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms."
Uncontrolled Keywords: Entomological radar; Insect migration; Flight altitude; Orientation cues; Flight behaviour; Atmospheric Turbulence; Insect vision
Subjects: S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Agriculture, Health & Environment Department
Last Modified: 16 Oct 2019 09:04

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