Friday, March 31, 2023

The sphinx of death adapts to air currents during its migration

Every year, a large number of insects migrate long distances during different times of the year. These displacements have been studied extensively. group approachBut not individually, as the challenge of tracking these tiny creatures one by one is considerable.

The focus is on a recent study by the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior (MPI-AB) and the University of Konstanz. sphinx of death ,Acherontia atropos), which derives its name from the drawing on its back that looks like a human skull and which periodically migrated to Europe. The work shows that these animals can maintain a perfectly straight flight path even in adverse wind conditions.

These moths can maintain a perfectly straight flight path even in adverse wind conditions.

This behavior is detailed in the journal science, indicates that the moths will be a refined internal compass This reflects how insects travel long distances by taking advantage of seasonal resources, regardless of wind conditions, to maintain beneficial migratory paths.

In particular, when the winds were favourable, they tended to blow higher and slower, carrying them with the wind. But during strong wind or opposite winds, they flew closer to the ground and picked up speed to maintain speed control your way,

“We are not sure about the effects of climate change for this species or if it will affect its orientation, but it has been shown that it occurs in other migratory animals, for example, affecting the timing of their movement. is,” he tells SYNC miles menzoFirst author of the study.

a windproof sailing

Researchers track insects by radio and plane 80 kmsLongest insect monitoring distance ever in the wild.

Insect Researcher

The moth was caught on the Col de Bretolet, a pass in the Swiss Alps through which many birds and insects migrate every year. / Christian Ziegler

Although the number of migratory insects exceeds the number of migratory birds or mammals, their journeys are least understood form of displacement long range animal

Researcher at MPI-AB and is now a professor at James Cook University (JCU) in Australia. “They’re usually too large to mark and rediscover, and too small to carry tracking devices.”

Even then, “Acherontia atropos It is quite large, which makes it more suitable for carrying transmitters and we can breed it in captivity”, he adds.

Although migratory insects outnumber migratory birds or mammals, their travel is the least understood form of long-distance animal movement.

Much of what we know about the coming and going of these tiny animals comes from studies that sampled insects at a single instant, such as through radar or direct observation, that have left large spaces of knowledge: “Understanding what insects do during migration and how they respond to the weather is the last frontier in this field,” says Mainz.

Leading tracking in size and distance

Acherontia atropos is a nocturnal migrant who travels 4,000 kilometers each year between Europe and Africa and who also has size enough (9 to 12 cm). Its proportions make it easy to implant a 0.2-gram tracer into its body. “Moths probably eat more weight than that in one night, so these tags are extremely light on insects,” says Mainz.

Sphinx With Radio Tag

Moths weigh up to 3.5 g and the radio tag attached to them weighs 0.2 g, which is less than 15% of adult body weight. / Christian Ziegler

researchers followed fourteen moths For a maximum of four hours, a segment that is already considered an overseas flight due to its length. Insects traveled from Constanta to the Alps to make their way to the Mediterranean and northwest Africa.

The Sphinx Of Death Adapts To Air Currents During Its Migration

For years it has been believed that insect migration was primarily about being blown away by the wind, but here we show that they are capable of being great navigators.

Miles Mainz, JCU

The Sphinx Of Death Adapts To Air Currents During Its Migration

“For years it has been assumed that insect migration was primarily about being driven by wind. But here we show that they are capable of being great navigators, similar to birds, and much less vulnerable to wind conditions. ,” Mainz says.

The next step in this area is to answer the question of how moths can keep those lines straight. The authors believe that it is possible that the insects may have been using an internal compass, both visual and magnetic, to chart your way around the world and reach your destination with ease. “It would also be great to be able to study the entire migratory journey to find out where they spend the winter,” the JCU professor concluded.


Miles HM Mainz et al. “Individual tracking reveals long-range flight-path control in a nocturnal migrating moth”, science

Fuente: sink

Right: creative Commons.

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