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SCIENCE IN PICS: The Dazzling Glasswinged Butterfly


Epoch Times Staff
Created: January 17, 2012 Last Updated: November 1, 2012
Related articles: Science » Earth & Environment
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The transparent wings of a glasswinged butterfly lack colored scales, helping it to blend into the background. (David Tiller/Wikimedia Commons)

The transparent wings of a glasswinged butterfly lack colored scales, helping it to blend into the background. (David Tiller/Wikimedia Commons)

The glasswinged butterfly, Greta oto, is a common species of clearwing butterfly, widely distributed in Central America from Mexico to Panama.

Its wings are famous for their characteristic transparent scales, which look like little windows craftily supported by brownish-orange opaque veins.

The delicate glass-like wings are strong enough to undertake a migratory flight, with the butterfly traveling more than 12 miles (19 km) a day. The wings also provide protective camouflage by allowing the insect to easily merge into its surroundings, thus preventing predatory birds from tracking the butterfly.

Adults feed on aster flowers and a variety of other nectar plants. The alkaloid compounds present in the nectar help to make the insect’s body unsavory to predators, and in males these are further assimilated for the production of sex pheromones.

Males show lekking behavior—a form of competitive mating display to defend their territories—in which they disperse their pheromones through specialized scales on their hind wings to attract females.

Females lay their eggs on plants of the nightshade family, especially toxic species of the Cestrum genus. The leaves are eaten by the hatched caterpillars, which acquire an undesirable taste, making them less likely to be eaten.

The pupal stage is unique and displays another form of camouflage—the extremely shiny cocoon reflects its surroundings like a mirror

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