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As the climate warms, groups of monarch butterflies that migrate south for the winter and north when the climate gets warmer may have to find new stomping and traveling grounds. Don’t worry, we don’t have a monarch die-off on our hands. The species is not threatened, but if the climate continues to change, the migration patterns will likely have to change, as well.

A team at the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that monarch butterflies that migrate from North America to Mexico are able to do so via the position of the sun in the sky. They are helped in determining the time and sun’s location via circadian clocks located in their antennae. According to New Scientist, scientists were able to determine these patterns by removing the antennae on a set of butterflies and seeing whether or not the experimental group would be able to tell which direction they need to fly.

Those butterflies couldn’t, which led the scientists to also test how temperatures would effect the butterflies. In the second scenario, butterflies were captured as they flew south. They spent a little under a month hanging out in a warm environment that mimicked the weather usually experienced in the Mexican portion of the migration. When these butterflies were released, they immediately flew north, despite cold weather still being present. This experiment led scientist Steven Reppert and the rest of the team to wonder what will happen as the temperatures heat up. A potential possibility is that the butterflies will no longer have to migrate all the way to Mexico and may be able to move further into Canada. While we’re still a ways off from finding out the answer, this look into the lives of monarch butterflies is fascinating, nonetheless.
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