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The Navigational System of the Butterfly

The Navigational System of the Butterfly

 Was It Designed?

The Navigational System of the Butterfly

▪ Using a brain that is about the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen, the monarch butterfly migrates as far as 1,800 miles [3,000 km] from Canada to a small patch of forest in Mexico. How does the insect find its way?

Consider: Monarch butterflies have a solar compass that is fixed to the position of the sun. But there is more. These insects also use a remarkably accurate circadian clock​—a biological function based on the 24-hour day—​to make corrections for the sun’s movement. Dr. Steven Reppert, a neurobiologist, says that monarch butterflies “have an entirely different way of building a circadian clock than the other insects and animals studied so far.”

Learning more about the secrets of the monarchs’ inner timepiece might give scientists further insight into the circadian clocks of humans and animals. It could also lead to new therapies for neurological afflictions. “I want to understand how the brain incorporates information about time and space,” says Reppert, “and the monarch is a spectacular example.”

What do you think? Is the complex navigational system of the monarch butterfly the product of chance? Or is it evidence of an intelligent Designer?

[Diagram/​Map on page 10]

(For fully formatted text, see publication)

The monarch butterfly migrates up to 1,800 miles from Canada to a small patch of forest in Mexico

[Map]

CANADA

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

MEXICO

MEXICO CITY

[Picture Credit Line on page 10]

Background: © Fritz Poelking/​age fotostock