Videos show growth of butterfly wings

The findings could help develop new functional materials. Waterproof textiles, for example. Or construction materials for self-cleaning buildings.

A thistle butterfly (Vanessa cardui)

MIT engineers have recorded the complicated choreography of butterfly scale formation during metamorphosis: The team has, for the first time, continuously observed how wing scales grow and assemble as a butterfly transforms inside its chrysalis – MIT reports on its website.

According to the report, the researchers were able to observe the formation of wing scales in specimens of Vanessa cardui using a minor surgical procedure and a sophisticated imaging technique. They found that when a wing forms, the cells on its surface line up in orderly rows as they grow. These cells apparently differentiate rapidly into alternating “top“ and “base“ scales that produce an overlapping shingle-like pattern. When the scales reach their full size, thin ridges form along their length – tiny ridged features that determine the insect's colour and help it repel rain and moisture, MIT writes.

Most detailed insight yet

The team's study, published in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offers the most detailed look yet at the architecture of butterfly scales. The new visualisations could also serve as a template for the development of new functional materials, such as iridescent windows and waterproof textiles. In addition, they could be a model for giving buildings self-cleaning properties, for example.

Written by: had

Photos: keystone

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