Monarch Butterfly Antenna: A Hi-tech Tiny Toolkit | The Institute for Creation Research
Monarch Butterfly Antenna: A Hi-tech Tiny Toolkit

Monarch butterflies have fascinated biologists for a long time. A 3,000-mile road trip in even the most comfortable car would prove daunting to many humans, but these beautiful insects can migrate that same distance every year from Canada to a specific grove of fir trees in Mexico each fall. The next generation of monarchs can then travel back to Canada in the spring.

Scientists are investigating the tools that these tiny flying creatures use to achieve this feat. One leading monarch researcher has discovered an important reason why the butterflies’ antennae are vital for successful navigation. Neurobiologist Steven Reppert and his team wanted to find out the specific mechanism in the antenna that enables the butterfly to migrate accurately.

In a press release reporting on their study published in Science, Dr. Reppert stated, “We’ve known that the insect antenna is a remarkable organ, responsible for sensing not only olfactory cues but wind direction and even sound vibration.”1 After observing the effects on navigation of removing or painting over the antennae, they discovered yet another sensor tucked in the tiny tendril—one that detects the angle of incoming sunlight.

Four years ago, Dr. Reppert discovered that monarch eyes detect a UV portion of sunlight, which is coordinated with a circadian clock in the brain.2 This year he was surprised to find a clock, or “time correction factor,” housed inside the antenna itself.1 The internal clock constantly calibrates the angle of sunlight, converting that information into cardinal directions. That way, the butterflies can fly south, or north the next generation, unerringly.

These butterflies, therefore, have a well-organized network of data coordination involving light information captured both with eyes and antennae, as well as circadian clocks in both the brain and antennae. After considering the chemical, wind, and sound detectors within the antennae alone—as well as the geographic information that is somehow transferred to the second generation that enables them to travel to a location they’ve never visited—one can see that such specifications could never be generated randomly. For functionality, they would require an engineer to specifically design them to work in conjunction with the complex systems present in the eyes and brain to steer the butterfly to its programmed destination.

And what better candidate for the identity of this engineer than the God of the Bible, who made every creature “very good” in the beginning, including the monarch butterfly with its amazing navigation system?3

References

  1. Migrating Monarch Butterflies “Nose” Their Way to Mexico. University of Massachusetts Medical School press release, September 25, 2009, reporting research published in Merlin, C., R. J. Gegear and S. M. Reppert. 2009. Antennal Circadian Clocks Coordinate Sun Compass Orientation in Migratory Monarch Butterflies. Science. 325 (5948): 1700-1704.
  2. How butterflies fly thousands of miles without getting lost revealed by researchers. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem press release, via Eurekalert!, August 1, 2005, reporting research published in Sauman, I. et al. 2005. Connecting the Navigational Clock to Sun Compass Input in Monarch Butterfly Brain. Neuron. 46 (3): 457-467.
  3. Genesis 1:31.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Article posted on October 9, 2009.

The Latest
NEWS
Dubious Views on Octopus Evolution
The octopus is one of the most amazing animals in God’s creation.1 Now, A new paper in Genome Biology and Evolution indicates...

NEWS
Microraptor Ate Mammals But Was Not a Dinosaur
The recent claim of a nearly half-inch mammal foot in the stomach of a ‘dinosaur’ is tainted by evolutionary dogma.1 The fossil...

NEWS
Dr. John Morris Is at Home with His Lord
Dr. John Morris passed peacefully away on January 29, 2023, at the age of 76. He was deeply respected and dearly loved by family, friends, and colleagues....

CREATION.LIVE PODCAST
Scripture Memory & Archaeological Evidence | Creation.Live Podcast:...
"Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You" (Psalm 119:11 NKJV). Scripture memory was important thousands of years...

NEWS
Webb Telescope Continues to Challenge Big Bang
Data obtained by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) continue to challenge expectations of Big Bang proponents.1,2 The JWST is designed...

CREATION PODCAST
The Truth About the Chimp Genome (Humans & Chimps: Part 2) |...
Have scientists proven human evolution from a "common apelike ancestor," or are we being told a clever, confusing story filled with farcical...

NEWS
World's Oldest Meal
The Ediacara biota is a sporadic faunal (animal) stage containing unique soft-bodied fossil creatures in sandstone from the Ediacaran System dating...

NEWS
No Microbes on Mars
Mars is a lifeless world. But those holding to a naturalistic worldview continue to have hope—even faith—that the Red Planet was at...

NEWS
Flood Explains Grouping of Ichthyosaurs
The discovery of dozens of ichthyosaur fossils in Nevada was announced in the journal Current Biology.1 Seven 50-foot long ichthyosaurs of...

NEWS
Frog Stripe Evolution?
Color patterns in animals, whether vertebrates or invertebrates, are designed by the Creator for camouflage, warning, courtship, or, simply, for the...