Studies of the migration of the eastern North American monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) have revealed mechanisms behind its navigation. The main orientation mechanism uses a time-compensated sun compass during both the migration south and the remigration north. Daylight cues, such as the sun itself and polarized light, are processed through both eyes and integrated through intricate circuitry in the brain's central complex, the presumed site of the sun compass. Monarch circadian clocks have a distinct molecular mechanism, and those that reside in the antennae provide time compensation. Recent evidence shows that migrants can also use a light-dependent inclination magnetic compass for orientation in the absence of directional daylight cues. The monarch genome has been sequenced, and genetic strategies using nuclease-based technologies have been developed to edit specific genes. The monarch butterfly has emerged as a model system to study the neural, molecular, and genetic basis of long-distance animal migration.
Keywords: circadian clock; magnetic compass; monarch genome; nuclease technology; time-compensated sun compass.