These researchers want to take their butterflies to the bank. They’ve found a way to mimic the nanostructures responsible for giving butterfly wings their colors, and they think butterfly-inspired money designs might hinder counterfeiters.
“We still need to refine our system, but in future we could see structures based on butterflies wings shining from a £10 note or even our passports,” said Mathias Kolle in a university press release. Kolle researched the butterfly’s wing structure with Ullrich Steiner and Jeremy Baumberg at the University of Cambridge.
Butterfly wings don’t use traditional pigment for their flair. Instead, they rely on the way light bounces off tiny multilayer structures on their wings. These micro- and nanostructures come in a variety of shapes (see the “egg carton-like” scanning electron microscope picture below), and scientists have long had inklings as to how different structures result in different colors. But Kolle and colleagues have gone one step further, managing the elusive task of copying this craft.
Butterfly in the sky, researchers wonder how you fly. To this end, Harvard University’s Hiroto Tanaka and the University of Tokyo’s Isao Shimoyama have built a butterfly doppelganger by combining angelic plastic wings, balsa wood, and rubber bands.
It’s a question you wouldn’t be surprised to hear a toddler ask: Do butterflies have ears? Well yes, yes they do. And one species was recently discovered to have ears on their wings. The blue morpho butterfly from Central and South America has beautiful bright blue wings complete with a simple ear structure that picks up noise and relays it to the brain.
In the new study, Kathleen Lucas of the University of Bristol in England and her colleagues were interested in the odd-looking hearing membrane that sits at the base of the blue morpho’s wing. The tympanal membrane, as it is called, is oval-shaped with a dome at its center that kind of resembles the yolk at the center of a fried egg, Lucas said.
Researchers determined that the butterflies can distinguish high and low frequencies, uncommon in simple ears, and they speculate this could help them determine if a hungry bird is about to swoop down and attack.
DISCOVER: Littlest Butterfly
DISCOVER: The Wired Butterfly
Discoblog: A Butterfly’s Moustache Leads Scientists to a New Species
Image: flickr / DavidDennisPhotos.com
This butterfly has a really funny mustache. So does this mean it looks more like Borat or Brad Pitt? Jokes aside, when the curators at the Natural History Museum in London noticed a butterfly with extra hair around its mouth, they took a closer look and discovered that it’s a new species.
The museum’s butterfly expert, Blanca Huertas, originally found the specimen four years ago on an expedition to the Magdalena valleys in Colombia. When she brought it back to the U.K., it promptly got lost in the museum’s three-million-and-change butterfly collection.
The good news is that she’s finally gotten around to classifying it: Huertas matched the butterfly to a reference species in the museum—a 90-year-old specimen known for having hairy mouthparts—and confirmed that it is a new species after all. It is now called Magdelena Valley Ringlet (or if you want to get all scientific, it’s also called Splendeuptychia ackeryl). But our nickname of Tom Selleck will do.
Image: flickr/ Tom
Male monarch butterflies have a sixth sense about where their female mates have been. As New Scientist explains, “[s]ensors on the male monarch butterfly’s penis may detect the volume of sperm directly, like the dipstick in a car’s oil tank.” That is, the male butterflies decide how much of their own sperm to deposit based on the female’s mating history.
If the male senses that the “oil tank” is nearly empty, it will inject a concoction of fertile sperm along with a good amount of fake sperm (sperm look-alikes with no nuclei) to discourage future male suitors. If the tank is already full, the male injects a more potent mixture, with a higher concentration of fertile sperm, in order to compete with the the sperm already in the female.