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How Butterflies Make Transparent Wings: Scientists See the Unseen



How butterflies make transparent wings: MBL scientists see the invisible.

Butterflies feed on flowers in Costa Rica. The incredible transparency of these butterflies makes them “invisible”

; and the anti-reflective coating of their wings prevents the glare from their wings out of sunlight. Credit: Nipam Patel.

Many animals have developed camouflage tactics for self-defense. But some butterflies and moths have evolved even further: they develop transparent wings. making them almost invisible to the predator.

A team led by Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) scientists studied the development of the species, Greta oto, the parrot butterfly. to see the secrets of this natural camouflage technology. Their work is published in Journal of Experimental Biology.

Although the transparent structure in animals is well established, But it appears more often in aquatic organisms. “It’s an interesting biological question because there aren’t many transparent organisms on land,” said lead author Aaron Pomerantz, Ph.D., a candidate in integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley. What was the basis for their actual development in the creation of transparent wings?”

Butterfly wings are known for their colorful patterns. which is made up of small scales overlapping which reflect or absorb various wavelengths of light to create color, Pomerantz said, despite an exhaustive study of the color scale. But the study of the origin of the transparency of terrestrial butterflies is unprecedented. “Transparency is the opposite of color,” he said.

How butterflies make transparent wings: MBL scientists see the invisible.

Haetera broad-winged butterfly. Credit: Aaron Pomerantz.

Pomerantz and his co-authors Including his Ph.D. Nipam Patel, MBL Advisor and Director, was inspired by the work of students in MBL’s Embryology course, which Patel teaches. available in the collection which I have never seen in detail before. Come to the course and present it as a challenge for students to see how transparent these wings are,” Patel said. “A group of students did just that by photographing multiple microscopic wings. And they realize that almost any way you can think of to make the wings transparent. Some butterflies or moths figure out how to do it. That’s what we look for. more elaborate on developing transparency.”

from such research The researchers used confocal electron microscopy and scanning to establish the developmental timeline of how transparency occurs in Greta oto from pupa to adulthood. They found that the wings of the parrot butterflies developed differently than the opaque species. with lower densities of substrate-level cells in areas that would later develop to be transparent. In the early stages, scale growth and morphology differed. Thin, bristle-like scales develop in transparent areas. and a flat round shape within an opaque area

“What Greta oto does is make the scales smaller and make them look like very different bristles,” Patel explains, “but getting the scales out of the way is just part of the problem with creating transparency. Aaron Young Nanostructures on the wings were observed to prevent glare in bright sunlight. When light hits these tiny nanostructures Reflected—it’s straight forward. for much better transparency,” he said.

“As a human We think we’re really good at it because we’ve discovered a way to apply anti-reflective coating on glass. but basically Butterflies thought that way tens of millions of years ago,” Patel said.

How butterflies make transparent wings: MBL scientists see the invisible.

A parrot butterfly on a leaf. Credit: Aaron Pomerantz.

Unusual scales and nanostructures are only part of the story. A second layer of waxy hydrocarbon nanopoles is placed on the wing surface. This gives it additional anti-glare properties. The researchers examined the reflectivity of the wings before and after removal of the wax layer with hexane.

“We measured the amount of light reflected from the wings,” Pomerantz said. “Those experiments showed that the upper layer was very important in reducing that reflection.” Biochemical analyzes showed that the wax layer was mainly composed of N-L. long line ken similar to those found in other insects “They were primarily thought of as something to prevent insects from drying out or desiccation, but in this case they appear to be used for their anti-reflective properties as well.”

Future research directions may include delving more deeply into how these transparent structures evolved, Pomerantz pointed out. “If we can learn more about how nature creates new types of nanostructures, that could be good information for human use.” This work makes the secret of natural transparency much less opacity.


Glass frogs, lobsters, and clear-winged butterflies use transparency to evade predators.


More information:
Aaron F. Pomerantz et al, Developmental, cellular, and biochemical basis of transparency in clearwing butterflies, Journal of Experimental Biology (2021). doi: 10.1242/jeb.237917

Provided by the Marine Biology Laboratory



reference: How Butterflies Make Transparent Wings: Scientists See the Invisible (2021, June 10). Retrieved June 11, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-06-butterflies-transparent-wings-scientists. -invisible.html

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