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Long-range seasonal migration in insects: mechanisms, evolutionary drivers and ecological consequences

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/03/2015
<mark>Journal</mark>Ecology Letters
Issue number3
Volume18
Number of pages16
Pages (from-to)287-302
Publication statusPublished
Early online date22/01/15
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Myriad tiny insect species take to the air to engage in windborne migration, but entomology also has its charismatic megafauna' of butterflies, large moths, dragonflies and locusts. The spectacular migrations of large day-flying insects have long fascinated humankind, and since the advent of radar entomology much has been revealed about high-altitude night-time insect migrations. Over the last decade, there have been significant advances in insect migration research, which we review here. In particular, we highlight: (1) notable improvements in our understanding of lepidopteran navigation strategies, including the hitherto unsuspected capabilities of high-altitude migrants to select favourable winds and orientate adaptively, (2) progress in unravelling the neuronal mechanisms underlying sun compass orientation and in identifying the genetic complex underpinning key traits associated with migration behaviour and performance in the monarch butterfly, and (3) improvements in our knowledge of the multifaceted interactions between disease agents and insect migrants, in terms of direct effects on migration success and pathogen spread, and indirect effects on the evolution of migratory systems. We conclude by highlighting the progress that can be made through inter-phyla comparisons, and identify future research areas that will enhance our understanding of insect migration strategies within an eco-evolutionary perspective.