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The Earth's Magnetic Field and Visual Landmarks Steer Migratory Flight Behavior in the Nocturnal Australian Bogong Moth

Dreyer, David LU ; Frost, Barrie; Mouritsen, Henrik; Günther, Anja; Green, Ken; Whitehouse, Mary; Johnsen, Sönke; Heinze, Stanley LU and Warrant, Eric LU (2018) In Current Biology 28(13). p.5-2166
Abstract

Like many birds [1], numerous species of nocturnal moths undertake spectacular long-distance migrations at night [2]. Each spring, billions of Bogong moths (Agrotis infusa) escape hot conditions in different regions of southeast Australia by making a highly directed migration of over 1,000 km to a limited number of cool caves in the Australian Alps, historically used for aestivating over the summer [3, 4]. How moths determine the direction of inherited migratory trajectories at night and locate their destination (i.e., navigate) is currently unknown [5–7]. Here we show that Bogong moths can sense the Earth's magnetic field and use it in conjunction with visual landmarks to steer migratory flight behavior. By tethering migrating moths in... (More)

Like many birds [1], numerous species of nocturnal moths undertake spectacular long-distance migrations at night [2]. Each spring, billions of Bogong moths (Agrotis infusa) escape hot conditions in different regions of southeast Australia by making a highly directed migration of over 1,000 km to a limited number of cool caves in the Australian Alps, historically used for aestivating over the summer [3, 4]. How moths determine the direction of inherited migratory trajectories at night and locate their destination (i.e., navigate) is currently unknown [5–7]. Here we show that Bogong moths can sense the Earth's magnetic field and use it in conjunction with visual landmarks to steer migratory flight behavior. By tethering migrating moths in an outdoor flight simulator [8], we found that their flight direction turned predictably when dominant visual landmarks and a natural Earth-strength magnetic field were turned together, but that the moths became disoriented within a few minutes when these cues were set in conflict. We thus conclude that Bogong moths, like nocturnally migrating birds [9], can use a magnetic sense. Our results represent the first reliable demonstration of the use of the Earth's magnetic field to steer flight behavior in a nocturnal migratory insect. The nocturnal Bogong moth performs a highly directed long-distance migration to and from alpine caves in the Australian Alps. Dreyer et al. show that this moth senses the Earth's magnetic field and uses it together with visual landmarks to steer migratory flight behavior. The geomagnetic field might thus be used as a compass during migration.

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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Agrotis infusa, Bogong moth, insect vision, magnetic sense, migration, navigation, Noctuidae
in
Current Biology
volume
28
issue
13
pages
5 - 2166
publisher
Elsevier
external identifiers
  • scopus:85048236933
ISSN
0960-9822
DOI
10.1016/j.cub.2018.05.030
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
dce73200-b157-4cd8-86fc-afab5b52fd80
date added to LUP
2018-06-21 16:17:03
date last changed
2018-07-12 13:44:02
@article{dce73200-b157-4cd8-86fc-afab5b52fd80,
  abstract     = {<p>Like many birds [1], numerous species of nocturnal moths undertake spectacular long-distance migrations at night [2]. Each spring, billions of Bogong moths (Agrotis infusa) escape hot conditions in different regions of southeast Australia by making a highly directed migration of over 1,000 km to a limited number of cool caves in the Australian Alps, historically used for aestivating over the summer [3, 4]. How moths determine the direction of inherited migratory trajectories at night and locate their destination (i.e., navigate) is currently unknown [5–7]. Here we show that Bogong moths can sense the Earth's magnetic field and use it in conjunction with visual landmarks to steer migratory flight behavior. By tethering migrating moths in an outdoor flight simulator [8], we found that their flight direction turned predictably when dominant visual landmarks and a natural Earth-strength magnetic field were turned together, but that the moths became disoriented within a few minutes when these cues were set in conflict. We thus conclude that Bogong moths, like nocturnally migrating birds [9], can use a magnetic sense. Our results represent the first reliable demonstration of the use of the Earth's magnetic field to steer flight behavior in a nocturnal migratory insect. The nocturnal Bogong moth performs a highly directed long-distance migration to and from alpine caves in the Australian Alps. Dreyer et al. show that this moth senses the Earth's magnetic field and uses it together with visual landmarks to steer migratory flight behavior. The geomagnetic field might thus be used as a compass during migration.</p>},
  author       = {Dreyer, David and Frost, Barrie and Mouritsen, Henrik and Günther, Anja and Green, Ken and Whitehouse, Mary and Johnsen, Sönke and Heinze, Stanley and Warrant, Eric},
  issn         = {0960-9822},
  keyword      = {Agrotis infusa,Bogong moth,insect vision,magnetic sense,migration,navigation,Noctuidae},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {07},
  number       = {13},
  pages        = {5--2166},
  publisher    = {Elsevier},
  series       = {Current Biology},
  title        = {The Earth's Magnetic Field and Visual Landmarks Steer Migratory Flight Behavior in the Nocturnal Australian Bogong Moth},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2018.05.030},
  volume       = {28},
  year         = {2018},
}