Butterfly Wing Scales Anatomy

Scanning electron microscope images

On this page you will find a selection of ultra-high magnification SEM images depicting butterfly wing scales.

Cleopatra Gonepteryx cleopatra ( Pieridae: Coliadinae ):

15aRobLineton 001a - Learn Butterflies

A group of scales from the orange part of the wing of Gonepteryx cleopatra – Rob Lineton

Butterfly wing scales are laid out in neat rows like the tiles on a roof. Some scales like those from the orange area of the wing of Gonepteryx cleopatra are shield-shaped, others can be shapes like hearts, spears or very long thin hairs, depending on their location and function.

scalecleo11abRobLineton 001a - Learn ButterfliesA single wing-scale of Gonepteryx cleopatra – Rob Lineton

Under high magnification it can be seen that the scales are constructed from about 20-40 parallel ribs, each linked by a series of tiny cross bars. The spaces between the ribs and cross bars diffract light to different degrees and thereby produce the myriad of hues which form the wing patterns.

scalecleo06%20RobLineton 001a - Learn ButterfliesSEM image showing a tiny section from a wing scale of Gonepteryx cleopatra. The vertical ribs are connected by tiny rods, each covered with spore-like protuberances – Rob Lineton

2-tailed Pasha Charaxes jasius ( Nymphalidae: Charaxinae ):

scalepash13abRobLineton 001a - Learn ButterfliesA group of scales from Charaxes jasius. These are longer and narrower than those of Gonepteryx cleopatra, and show evidence of forking in a few places – Rob Lineton

scalepash14aRobLineton 001a - Learn ButterfliesCharaxes jasius. Under extreme magnification it is apparent that these scales do not have the tiny spore-like protuberances found in G. cleopatra Rob Lineton

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