It’s time to give the Blue Morpho butterfly a little attention that isn’t nanotechnology-inflected. Happily, GrrlScientist has written an April 13, 2015 post for the Guardian science blog network about the blue butterfly featured in an exhibit (Sensational Butterflies) in London (UK) at the Natural History Museum,
Blue morpho butterflies are native to Mexico, Central American and the northern regions of South America. In the wild, as they fly through the thick foliage, their wings provide brief flashes of brilliant blue that are visible from a long distance. This helps them find mates and defend their territories.
The blue morpho lives for only 115 days — and most of their lifetime is spent on “the Three Fs”: feeding, flying and … reproduction. As fuzzy caterpillars, blue morphos are nocturnal and herbivorous; munching their way through the leaves from many tropical plant species by night — or they can be cannibals; munching their way through their siblings!
Here are two views of the Blue Morpho butterfly (topside and bottomside of the wings)
Back to GrrlScientist,
Blue morphos are amongst the largest butterflies in the world, with a wingspan that ranges from 7.5–20 cm (3.0–7.9 inches). The underside of their wings are pigmented with black, brown, tan, orange and white, and with a number of eyespots (ocelli). This colouring provides cryptic camouflage to protect them from sharp-eyed predators, especially at night when the adults roost in the foliage to sleep.
The uppersides of the blue morpho’s wings are vivid metallic blue, edged with black. The blue colouring is not supplied by pigments, but by iridescence, where the scales are arranged in a tetrahedral (diamond) pattern across the wing surface, and where individual scales are comprised of several layers, or lamellae, that reflect incident light repeatedly from each successive layer. …
It’s an interesting description of how colour for the topside of the wings is produced. I would have said the colour is supplied by structures on the wing (see my Feb. 7, 2013 post for more about structural colour which is found in plants, fish, peacock feathers, and elsewhere in nature).
GrrlScientist has more about the Blue Morpho Butterfly, including a video of the butterflies emerging from their chrysalises. As for the exhibition, Sensational Butterflies at the Natural History Museum in London (UK) which opened April 2, 2015 and runs till Sept. 13, 2015, you can find out more here.
One last word about the Blue Morpho, there are several species of butterflies known as ‘blue morphos’ (from the April 13, 2015 post by GrrlScientist),
… the Sensational Butterflies exhibition’s blue morphos are peleides blue morphos, Morpho peleides