UCC scientists discover ancient butterfly wing colours

By Gemma Creagh - Last update


Get Daily news and updates directly to your Email




New research by scientists at University College Cork has revealed the wing colours of some of the oldest ancestors of modern butterflies and moths. The 180 million-year-old fossils, preserved in rocks and amber, would have had bronze to golden colours produced by microscopic ridges and grooves on the surface of their wing scales. These fossils extend the evidence for light-scattering structures in insects by more than 130 million years.

UCC scientists’ research

UCC palaeobiologists Dr Maria McNamara and Dr Luke McDonald reconstructed the colours using powerful electron microscopes and optical modelling. Similar ridges and grooves are still seen in modern primitive moths. According to Dr McNamara, “these fossils are among the oldest known representatives of butterflies and moths. We didn’t expect to find wing scales preserved, let alone microscopic structures that produce colour. This tells us that colour was an important driving force in shaping the evolution of wings even in the earliest ancestors of butterflies and moths”.

Insects have evolved an amazing diversity range of photonic nanostructures that can produce iridescence, metallic colours, and other eye-catching effects that play a vital role in visual signalling, Dr McDonald added.

The results of the study will be published in the journal Science Advances.

Find out more online at www.ucc.ie.


Gemma Creagh

IOP Communicator Award for UCD physics postgraduate student
NUIG Hardiman PhD Scholarships 2019


Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We'd love to send you the latest news and articles about evening classes, further learning and adult education by email. We'll always treat your personal details with the utmost care and will never sell them to other companies for marketing purposes.

Comments and Reviews Policy