High-flying morpho butterflies evolved into efficient gliders

The wing shape of Morpho butterflies is being determined. The vein gliding of Morpho butterfly wings was used as landmarks to standardize the relative position of the fore and hindwing during flight. The axis linking the wing base to the vein junction R4 was positioned to the right of the body axis. The Cu2 vein of the forewing was placed against the front margin of the hindwing. The overlap between gliding forewing and hindwing was determined using the top view camera in the semi-field setup. Cropped images of the gliding wings were used to create a realistic wing shape. The surface mesh used in the simulations is a three-dimensional model of the gliding wing. The wing shapes of the species have been studied. Credit is given to the science.abh2620

The morpho butterflies live and fly in the canopy of the rainforest and have evolved into efficient flyers. The evolution of flight in morpho butterflies was influenced by the switch from the understory to the canopy habitat.

The large morpho butterflies are famous for their blue iridescent wings and are among the largest flying insects. The dense understory of the rain forest is where most morpho species fly close to the ground. Scientists used high speed cameras to film the flight of morphos in the wild and in captive condition in the Peruvian jungle for several months.

The flight ofmorphos.

The butterflies from the understory show a fast-flapping flight, while the morphos from the canopy show a very efficient gliding flight. The researcher says that the fast flapping flight is good for moving through dense vegetation. A gliding flight allows the canopy species to cover large distance at low cost.

Behavioral differences or changes in morphology may be the cause of such flight evolution. In the lab in the Netherlands, the researchers modeled their aerodynamic performance using computer simulations.

Wing shape plays a crucial role for gliding efficiency, but different canopy species achieve increased gliding efficiency in different ways. Some have more slender wings while others have more triangular shapes. The enhanced gliding efficiency is similar.

There is a biodiversity.

Natural selection imposed by different microhabitats can drive the evolution of flap-gliding flight by altering wing shape and flight behavior. The diversity of habitats hosted by the rain forest is key in the evolution of species according to researcher Camille Le Roy. The integrity of the forest is linked to the maintenance of the environment.

The adaptive evolution of flight in Morpho butterflies is described in Science. There is a science.abh2620.

Science journal information.

The high-flying morpho butterflies evolved into efficient gliders.

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