• Lush vegetation on the top of Spectacle Island's North drumlin dominates the foreground. Boston's skyline can be seen in the distance.  The park's logo with tag line minutes away, worlds apart empashises the stark contrast between the city and islands.

    Boston Harbor Islands

    National Recreation Area Massachusetts

Examining the Genetic Basis of Migratory Behavior in Monarchs

Marcus Kronforst
Marcus Kronforst
(617) 384-7631
e-mail author

Nicola Chamberlain
(617) 496-2995
e-mail author

Harvard University
FAS Center for Systems Biology
Bauer Laboratory
7 Divinity Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02138

Delivered at 2008 Boston Harbor Islands Science Symposium.

North American monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) migrate annually between the USA/Canada and wintering grounds in Mexico and southern California. In contrast, monarchs in South and Central America do not migrate. To explore the genetic basis of this behavioral variation, we sequenced portions of genes involved in the production of cellular energy and compared these sequences between migratory (Boston Harbor Islands) and non-migratory (Ecuador) populations. Our results demonstrate that there is pronounced genetic differentiation between monarchs from North and South America. This pattern is consistent with the involvement of these genes in generating a trait, like migratory behavior, which differs between the two populations. As a follow-up to these experiments, we are sequencing portions of additional genes to see if the observed differences represent a genome-wide pattern or if they are restricted to genes involved in energy production and flight performance.

Did You Know?

A Path at Worlds End

Worlds End was a proposed site for the United Nations Headquarters in 1945 and a nuclear power plant in 1965. Now part of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, it includes 251 acres of undisturbed grasslands and over 4 miles of footpaths.