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ARS Home » Plains Area » Sidney, Montana » Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory » Pest Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #326699

Research Project: Ecology and Management of Grasshoppers and Other Rangeland and Crop Insects in the Great Plains

Location: Pest Management Research

Title: Magnetic compasses in insects

Author
item Srygley, Robert
item Riveros, Andre - Pontificia Universidad Javeriana

Submitted to: Elsevier
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/15/2016
Publication Date: 11/18/2016
Citation: Srygley, R.B., Riveros, A.J. 2016. Magnetic compasses in insects. In: Fraser, P., editor. Reference Module in Life Sciences. Amsterdam: Elsevier. p. 1-9. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-809633-8.01251-6.

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.