Scientists have long known that the beautiful colours of butterfly wings don’t come from pigments but instead from intricate light-diffracting assemblies of chitin, a sugar molecule.
Precisely how the butterflies produce these structures is a mystery, but researchers have for the first time observed them growing in the wings of the hairstreak butterfly (Thecla opisena).
The discovery that the structures, known as gyroids, grow in size along the length of each scale on the butterfly’s wing contradicts an earlier idea that the gyroids may arise from a “pre-folded” crystalline template.
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Originally published by Cosmos as How butterfly wings get their colour
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