Monarch Butterflies are found all over the globe and it is only in North America that they migrate to Mexico in a mass migration which can be spotted by satellite. Scientists have been sequencing the genomes of 90 monarch butterflies from across the world. Researchers have unearthed a gene which plays a major part in determining if the monarchs are migratory and so also details of the origins of the butterfly, its migratory behavior and coloring.
Common notion is that North American Monarch Butterflies are predated upon by the species in South and Central America. However new research has revealed that North Americans are oldest of the Monarch Butterflies. This conclusion has been drawn by Marcus Kronforst, evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago and an author of the study. The study will appear in the journal Nature.
Marcus Kronforst said,“And then at some point, they dispersed into South and Central America and across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.”
The researchers found that the migratory butterflies had reduced levels of collagen gene which is crucial in making flight muscles. Using a flight monitor the researchers discovered that the migratory butterflies were using less oxygen and also had a lower metabolic rate which enabled them to fly long distances.
Dr. Kronforst said, “I like to think of it as a marathon runner versus a sprinter. The migratory ones are really marathon runners.”
Most of the monarch butterflies bear wings which are orange and black in color. However a small percentage of monarch butterflies in Hawaii are black and white. Dr. Kronforst has the answer for this.
He said, “There’s one spot in one gene where all the white ones are different from all the orange ones.”