It's an amazing thing that monarchs migrate at all, especially given that the migrating generation returns to a place it has never been. One of the many mysteries surrounding the phenomenon has been how they navigate. It seems scientists have solved that one, and the answer surprises them.
Researchers have always assumed that navigation occurred somewhere in the critter's brain. However, the truth is that there is a stand-alone GPS system in the antennae that guides them. Here's the article: Butterflies Use Antennal GPS to Guide Migration.
Karen Oberhauser of the University of Minnesota says, “Our sensory systems are really localized to our heads, but insects can taste with their feet and smell with their antennae, and probably their abdomens have pretty complex sensory systems, too. Because insect sensory systems are so different than our sensory systems, it’s sometimes difficult for us to even ask the right questions."
I doubt that we truly realize how alien and wondrous insects are, how radically they differ from us. What must the earth, reality itself, be like for them? They must see and hear and taste things of which we are totally unaware. It has to be like living in a different dimension, a parallel universe.
And as if that weren't mind-blowing enough, here's another tidbit: Butterflies Remember What They Learned as Caterpillars - though virtually nothing remains of their original brain and body.
I don't know about you, but when I discover stuff like this I just sit here with my mouth open, grinning at the wonder of it all.
*P.S. On a related note, there's a great photo of Katydid ears over at the blog Squirrel's View. You ain't gonna believe where those are. It's a cool blog - she's definitely "one of us". Go see.
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