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Every year, painted lady butterflies make a journey of remarkable magnitude typically only observed in migratory birds.
The orange and black-speckled insects travel over 7,450 miles (12,000km) and cross the Sahara Desert twice a year, from Europe to the tropics of Africa during autumn before returning to the Mediterranean in early spring.
Circuit - Sahara - Research - Migration - Butterflies
A long-range circuit over the Sahara is rare enough as it is, and according to new research, it’s the longest migration observed in any known butterflies to date.
Some birds are known to make what’s known as the Palearctic-African migratory circuit, according to the Institute of Evolutionary Biology.
But it’s particularly extraordinary to observe in butterflies.
Researchers previously identified the painted lady butterfly’s migration across this route, but what exactly happened to the migrants and their offspring remained a mystery.
Hypothesis - Species - Northward - Migration - Europe
‘Our hypothesis was that the species initiates a reverse northward migration towards Europe in the spring, thus completing a regular migratory cycle,’ said Roger Vila, one of the authors on the new study.
To find out their fate, the researchers studied the natal origin of the butterflies that arrive to the Mediterranean in early spring by analyzing the stable hydrogen isotopes found on the wings...
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