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The sensory basis of long distance migration in Bogong moths

Moth wing

The nocturnal Bogong moth (Agrotis infusa) is a well-known Australian insect that has a remarkable migratory ability. Like the Monarch butterflies of North America, Bogong moths make a yearly migration over enormous distances from southern Queensland to the alpine regions of New South Wales and Victoria. After emerging from their pupae in early Spring, many millions of adult Bogong moths embark on their long southward nocturnal journey towards the Australian Alps where they seek out the cool shelter of selected and isolated high ridge-top caves and rock crevices, spending the summer months there in a dormant state. Towards the end of the summer (February and March), the moths emerge and begin their long return trip northwards to their breeding grounds in Queensland. Once there, moths mate, lay eggs and die. The moths that hatch in the following Spring then repeat the migratory cycle afresh. Despite having had no previous experience of the migratory route, these moths remarkably find their way to their caves in the Alps, and then find their way back to Queensland again. How naïve moths manage this migratory feat is a mystery. The goal of this project is to solve it. Some of our current questions are:

  1. Which sensory cues are used to guide and terminate the long distance migration? Eric Warrant
  2. What is the neural basis for compass navigation in these moths, and how is it specialised for nocturnal sensory cues? Stanley Heinze and Eric Warrant
Page Manager:
Bogong moth

Collaborators

  • Prof. Barrie Frost, Queens University, Canada
  • Prof. Henrik Mouritsen, University of Oldenburg, Germany
  • Prof. Sanjay Sane, National Centre for Biological Sciences, India
  • Dr. Ken Green, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Australia