Do fall migrant monarchs use solar elevation as a cue to mediate migration?

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Shaina Gerber Patrick Guerra


By Shaina Gerber, Biology of Animals

Advisor: Patrick Guerra

Presentation ID: PM_ATRIUM25

Abstract: The Eastern North American monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) performs a long-distance migration during the fall, during which individuals fly southwards to overwintering sites in Mexico from the eastern US and southern Canada. Migrant monarchs utilize the sun as a visual cue that allows them to fly with the proper southwards flight orientation during the fall. For instance, migrants employ a time-compensated sun compass for flight directionality, using the azimuth angle of the sun as a parameter. Monarchs, however, might also use other parameters of the sun to facilitate their migration. For example, the sun's elevation angle (the sun's apparent altitude in the sky) changes during the fall season (i.e., decreases over time), and therefore can serve as a cue that either initiates, terminates, or both, the migration. To examine this possibility, we examined if there were any correlations between monarch sightings during the fall (2010-2017 fall seasons), with the onset of monarch migration and for their arrival in Mexico. Here, monarch sightings serve as a proxy for the overall progression of the fall monarch migration in Eastern North America.

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PM Poster Session -- Atrium -- Sustainability & Biodiversity