Each fall, a huge swarm of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) cover several thousand kilometers to reach their hibernation spots in Central Mexico. With the help of a time-compensated sky compass they are able to keep up their southerly flight direction. This makes the monarch butterfly a suitable model organism to investigate the neuronal and behavioral mechanisms behind insect migration.
However, it is still not known how different celestial cues (sun position, polarized light, spectral and intensity cues of the sky) are hierarchically evaluated within compass neurons in the brain. Furthermore, it is not clear how the sky compass network integrates and evaluates the time information derived from the antenna. In my PhD-project I aim to investigate the neuronal circuitry of the time-compensated sky compass in the monarch butterfly. Using intracellular recordings, I will characterize the relevance of different simulated celestial cues in central-complex neurons of monarch butterflies.
Fandino, R. A., Haverkamp, A., Bisch-Knaden, S., Zhang, J., Bucks, S., Nguyen, T. A. T., Schröder, K., Werckenthin, A., Rybak, J., Stengl, M., Knaden, M., Hansson, B. S., and Große-Wilde, E. (2019) Mutagenesis of odorant coreceptor Orco fully disrupts foraging but not oviposition behaviors in the hawkmoth Manduca sexta, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Sciences 116, 15677--15685.