January 14, 2013 § Leave a comment
Charles Robert Darwin once stated, “evolution is written on the wings of butterflies.”
Fred Albert Urquhart (December 13, 1911 – November 3, 2002) was a Canadian zoologist who crucially contributed to the search for where the monarch butterflies, Danaus plexippus L., spend their winter away from their summer residence areas in Canada and the USA.
Urquhart’s research on the route and destination of the insects started in 1937 and lasted for 38 years. He followed the trails of the butterflies into the Mexican territory by tagging the wings of some individuals. He found out that they only travelled in daylight. They cruise at 20 kilometers per hour at 50 meters high over flat areas and 10 meters over mountains. During the night, the butterflies feed on milkweed and rest.
Catalina Trail and Kenneth C. Brugger, Urquhart’s assistants, finally found the first wintering refuge in Michoacán, Mexico, on the 9th of January 1975, more than 4,000 kilometers from the starting point of their migration.