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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ECOLOGY AND MANAGEMENT OF GRASSHOPPERS AND OTHER INSECT PESTS IN THE NORTHERN GREAT PLAINS

Location: Pest Management Research Unit

Title: Migration, Orientation and Navigation: Magnetic Compasses in Insects

Authors
item Riveros, Andre - UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
item Srygley, Robert

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: October 21, 2009
Publication Date: January 8, 2010
Repository URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10113/44627
Citation: Riveros, A.J., Srygley, R.B. 2010. Migration, Orientation and Navigation: Magnetic Compasses in Insects. In: Breed, M.D., and Moore, J., editors. Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior. Vol. 2. Oxford: Elsevier / Academic Press. pp. 305-313.

Interpretive Summary: The use of magnetic information for orientation and navigation is a widespread phenomenon in animals. In contrast to navigational systems in vertebrates, our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the insect magnetic perception and use of the information is at an early stage. Some insects use magnetic information for simple body alignment or homing. There is also some evidence that insects might use the Earth’s magnetic field to orient during long-distance migrations. In most cases where known, insects use a polarity compass, orienting by the North-South axis of the Earth’s magnetic field. However recent studies have also pointed to a role for magnetic inclination in insect orientation. Also, magnetic information is coupled with other navigation compasses or cues, such as the sun or landmarks. The use of traditional insect models will be critical to increasing our knowledge of the proximal mechanisms. Nevertheless, the study of new species is necessary for the solution of specific questions regarding perception, processing and use of magnetic information in insects. In this article, our current knowledge on the use of magnetic information for orientation and navigation in insects is broadly reviewed from the nature of the magnetic compass to the diversity of its uses. Important directions for future research are also discussed.

Technical Abstract: The use of magnetic information for orientation and navigation is a widespread phenomenon in animals. In contrast to navigational systems in vertebrates, our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the insect magnetic perception and use of the information is at an early stage. Some insects use magnetic information for simple body alignment or homing. There is also some evidence that insects might use the Earth’s magnetic field to orient during long-distance migrations. In most cases where known, insects use a polarity compass, orienting by the North-South axis of the Earth’s magnetic field. However recent studies have also pointed to a role for magnetic inclination in insect orientation. Also, magnetic information is coupled with other navigation compasses or cues, such as the sun or landmarks. The use of traditional insect models will be critical to increasing our knowledge of the proximal mechanisms. Nevertheless, the study of new species is necessary for the solution of specific questions regarding perception, processing and use of magnetic information in insects. In this article, our current knowledge on the use of magnetic information for orientation and navigation in insects is broadly reviewed from the nature of the magnetic compass to the diversity of its uses. Important directions for future research are also discussed.

Last Modified: 7/28/2014
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