PubMed | Lund University, New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service Jindabyne, University of Oldenburg and Queen's University
Type: | Journal: Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience | Year: 2016
The nocturnal Bogong moth (Agrotis infusa) is an iconic and well-known Australian insect that is also a remarkable nocturnal navigator. Like the Monarch butterflies of North America, Bogong moths make a yearly migration over enormous distances, from southern Queensland, western and northwestern New South Wales (NSW) and western Victoria, to the alpine regions of NSW and Victoria. After emerging from their pupae in early spring, adult Bogong moths embark on a long nocturnal journey towards the Australian Alps, a journey that can take many days or even weeks and cover over 1000 km. Once in the Alps (from the end of September), Bogong moths seek out the shelter of selected and isolated high ridge-top caves and rock crevices (typically at elevations above 1800 m). In hundreds of thousands, moths line the interior walls of these cool alpine caves where they hibernate over the summer months (referred to as estivation). Towards the end of the summer (February and March), the same individuals that arrived months earlier leave the caves and begin their long return trip to their breeding grounds. Once there, moths mate, lay eggs and die. The moths that hatch in the following spring then repeat the migratory cycle afresh. Despite having had no previous experience of the migratory route, these moths find their way to the Alps and locate their estivation caves that are dotted along the high alpine ridges of southeastern Australia. How nave moths manage this remarkable migratory feat still remains a mystery, although there are many potential sensory cues along the migratory route that moths might rely on during their journey, including visual, olfactory, mechanical and magnetic cues. Here we review our current knowledge of the Bogong moth, including its natural history, its ecology, its cultural importance to the Australian Aborigines and what we understand about the sensory basis of its long-distance nocturnal migration. From this analysis it becomes clear that the Bogong moth represents a new and very promising model organism for understanding the sensory basis of nocturnal migration in insects.