Butterfly wing translucence enables enhanced visual signaling

Doekele G. Stavenga*, Heinrich L. Leertouwer, Kentaro Arikawa

*Corresponding author for this work

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The light reflected by the dorsal side of butterfly wings often functions as a signal for, e.g., mate choice, thermoregulation, and/or predator deterrence, while the ventral wing reflections are generally used for crypsis and camouflage. Here, we propose that transmitted light can also have an important role in visual signaling because, in many butterfly species, the dorsal and ventral wing sides are similarly patterned and locally more or less translucent. Extreme examples are the Japanese yellow swallowtail (Papilio xuthus Linnaeus, 1758) and the Yellow glassy tiger (Parantica aspasia Fabricius, 1787). Their wings exhibit a similar color pattern in reflected and transmitted light, which allows enhanced visual signaling, especially in flight. Contrasting cases in which the coloration and patterning of dorsal and ventral wings strongly differ are the papilionid Papilio nireus Linnaeus, 1758, and the pierid Delias nigrina Fabricius, 1775. The wings observed in reflected or transmitted light then show very different color patterns. Wing translucence thus will strongly affect a butterfly’s visual signal.
Original languageEnglish
Article number234
Number of pages11
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 26-Feb-2023

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