New film showcases discovery of mysterious butterfly migration pattern

A new film in IMAX theaters tells the story of Dr. Fred Urquhart of Toronto, a zoologist who spent 40 years ferreting out and proving the remarkable migration pattern of the monarch butterfly, which flies 4,000 miles annually from southern Canada to Mexico and back again.

To prove the migration pattern, which spans four generations of butterflies, in the 1940s Urquhart and his wife, Norah, perfected a scientific tag that would stick onto the butterfly’s wings without destroying it. They then asked volunteers around North America to begin tagging monarchs with a tag that read “Send to Zoology University of Toronto,” according to the movie’s website.

Eventually, two Minnesota boys tagged a monarch that Urquhart found four months later, in the winter of 1976, at a monarch roosting area high in Mexico’s Sierra Madre Mountains; the monarch’s winter resting spot had only been discovered a year earlier by two Mexican citizens. Urquhart happened upon the tagged butterfly, which was resting among millions of non-tagged butterflies, after having been at the site for about five minutes, sparking a feeling of divine intervention among Urquhart’s team, according to the movie’s website.

To learn more about the movie, click here.