By Maria Temming
Most butterflies sport colorful, eye-catching wings. But some species flit about using mostly transparent wings. [MBL] researchers have now uncovered the tricks that one of these — the glasswing butterfly (Greta oto) — uses to hide in plain sight.
Researchers viewed the wings of these Central American butterflies under the microscope. There they spied sparse, spindly scales overlaying a see-through wing membrane. That membrane also has antireflective properties. It’s that combo that makes these insects so stealthy.
Researchers shared what they learned in the May 28 Journal of Experimental Biology.
Being transparent is the ultimate camouflage, says James Barnett. He’s a behavioral ecologist at McMaster University. It’s in Hamilton, Canada. Transparent animals can blend into any background. “It’s really hard to do,” notes Barnett, who did not take part in the work. To limit light reflection, “You have to modify your entire body,” he explains. Read more …
Top photo: Glasswing butterfly at a flower. Credit: Nipam Patel