A new study from the University of Georgia has found that monarch butterflies with more white spots on their wings are more successful at reaching their wintering destination. The researchers believe that these spots may change airflow patterns around the wings, aiding in the butterflies’ migration. The study initially hypothesized that monarchs with more dark wings would be more successful due to improved flight efficiency, but the opposite was found to be true. The monarchs with less black on their wings and more white spots were the ones that reached their ultimate destination in Mexico. The researchers analyzed hundreds of wild monarch wings and found that the successful migratory monarchs had about 3% less black and 3% more white on their wings compared to nonmigratory butterflies. The butterflies’ coloring is believed to be related to the amount of radiation they receive during their journey, as the monarchs’ longer journey exposes them to more sunlight. The butterflies have evolved to have more white spots to capitalize on this solar energy and improve their flight efficiency. However, rising temperatures and changes in solar radiation may pose challenges for the species in the future. Despite this, the study found that the breeding population of monarchs remains stable, which suggests that summer populations compensate for losses during migration. This study sheds light on how monarch butterflies are successful in reaching their destination.
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