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Monarch Genome

December 5, 2011

Scientists have sequenced the Monarch butterfly’s genome, to better understand its epic migrations.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

The genetics of migration…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Monarch butterflies are famous for their fall migration from eastern North America to central Mexico. Fall migrants live up to 9 months in order to make the trip, which can be 2000 miles long. But spring and summer Monarchs live for less than 2 months and don’t migrate at all. University of Massachusetts School of Medicine neurobiologist Steven Reppert says that certain genes are probably turned on in the fall as the days grow shorter. This prompts autumn Monarchs to put all their energy into migration instead of reproduction. Reppert and his team recently sequenced the Monarch genome, looking for the genes responsible.

STEVEN REPPERT (Institution):

We’re like kids in a candy store, because we have so many genes and gene products that we’d like to look at that we think maybe critical for the migratory behavior.

HIRSHON:

He says understanding the genetics behind Monarch migration could help shed light on the migratory behavior of other species, like birds and sea turtles, as well. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Monarch butterflies during their fall migration (Monarch Watch)