Long-distance migration is a strategy some animals use to survive a seasonally changing environment. To reach favorable grounds, migratory animals have evolved sophisticated navigational mechanisms that rely on a map and compasses. In migratory insects, the existence of a map sense (sense of position) remains poorly understood, but recent work has provided new insights into the mechanisms some compasses use for maintaining a constant bearing during long-distance navigation. The best-studied directional strategy relies on a time-compensated sun compass, used by diurnal insects, for which neural circuits have begun to be delineated. Yet, a growing body of evidence suggests that migratory insects may also rely on other compasses that use night sky cues or the Earth's magnetic field. Those mechanisms are ripe for exploration.
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.