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How do Butterflies get their colors?

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Marianne Alleyne

on 1 March 2013

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Transcript of How do Butterflies get their colors?

Pigments in butterfly scales can absorb certain wavelengths of light.

We, humans, have different amounts of melanin pigment in our skin cells

and plants have chlorophyl in their cells that absorb all wavelengths except the ones in the green spectrum. How do Butterflies get their colors? Picture by Willem Alleyne But the iridescent color of Morpho Butterflies... ...is due to light shining on, and being reflected by, Christmas trees Sort of... Wings of Scales
The scientific name of the butterfly order, Lepidoptera, means "scale winged.” Why do things (materials, people, etc.) have certain colors? It depends on:
what wavelengths of light are transmitted.
if the objects you are looking at are reflecting or absorbing wavelengths.
how the reflected light hits your eye. Nanostructures on the morpho butterfly wing

look a lot like christmas trees
they reflect the light that hits the wing
the wing appears iridescent

the nanostructures in Fig 3b give the wing a very intense blue color
the nanostructures in Fig 3c give the wing a more diffuse blue appearance. The emerald swallowtail is one of the only green butterflies:

nanostructures in the scales create a cup shape.
light that hits the bottom of the cup reflects back yellow.
light that hits the sides of the cup reflects back blue.

Mix yellow and blue together and you get...

a pretty green buttefly: What is a nanostructure?

Structure that is bigger than "molecular"
Structure that is smaller than "microscopic"
It is very very small - certain processes such as gravity, forces, waterproofing work differently at these small sizes, that makes nanostructures difficult to understand, but also very cool.

Engineers can now fabricate nanostructures. The North American Orange Sulphur The vivid orange/yellow color is the result of:
absorption (UV light absorbing pigment pterin) and
reflection (christmas tree nanostructures) But it is not all about Christmas Trees:
The Blue Mountain Swallowtail, for instance, has a bright blue color due to layers of chitin/air/melanin Neat-o, but so what...? By taking advantage of chemistry (pigments) and physics (structure) butterflies (and other animals) can have many different colors. We can learn from the mechanisms animals use to make colors &:
Come up with new ways to give color to things (that may not be so harmful to the environment)
Come up with new ways to transmit information (using photons instead of electrons)
any other ideas? Picture by Willem Alleyne Read more about it:

Shawkey et al., J. R. Soc. Interface (2009), V6, pp S221-S233
Vukusic, Nature (2003), V424, pp852-855
Vukusic, Current Biology (2006), V16 (16), pp R621-623
Horton, Jennifer. "Where do butterflies get their striking colors?" 12 March 2008. HowStuffWorks.com.
http://animals.howstuffworks.com/insects/butterfly-colors.html From webexhibits.com Excuse me!!! pictures from wikicommons Nanostructures on scales
look like Christmas trees This Prezi was created by Marianne Alleyne
from the University of Illinois
as part of the School of Integrative Biology's
online course initiative.
For more information on these courses
contact me at vanlaarh-at-illinois.edu To check out what a Morpho butterfly looks like in flight go to: http://youtu.be/a80NlTVqZ64 http://bit.ly/aZ3het Click this link to see what UIUC material scientists manufactured by using diffraction manufacturing techniques to make nanostructures that diffract light.
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