Turtle tears are not the only source of such salts for butterflies; the insects also readily get the salt from animal urine, muddy river banks, puddles, sweaty clothes and sweating people, said Geoff Gallice, a graduate student of entomology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, who has witnessed butterflies flocking to turtle tears in the western Amazon rain forest.
This region is lower in sodium than many places on Earth, because it is more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) from the Atlantic Ocean, a prime source of salt, and is cut off from windblown mineral particles to the west by the Andes Mountains. Dust and minerals make their way into the Amazon from the east, sometimes all the way from north Africa. But much of this material is removed from the air by rain before it reaches the western Amazon, Torres said.
The Blue Morpho Butterfly is a beautiful brown — yes, brown — butterfly. The microscopic scales on this rainforest butterfly manipulate light, reflecting back an intense blue light that makes them appear blue.
Professor Brian Cox explains how Monarch Butterflies navigate by “monitoring the position of the sun, and compensating for its location in the sky using their internal timekeeping mechanism… even when it’s cloudy.” This is an episode 5 preview of the BBC’s Wonders of Life. Full screen this.
…we human beings, who have been trying to make things for only the blink of an evolutionary eye, have a lot to learn from the long processes of natural selection, whether it’s how to make a wing more aerodynamic or a city more resilient or an electronic display more vibrant… one of the most often-cited examples is Velcro, which the Swiss engineer Georges de Mestral patented in 1955 after studying how burs stuck to his clothes…
More than a decade ago, an MIT grad named Mark Miles was dabbling in the field of micro-electromechanical and materials processing. As he paged through a science magazine, he was stopped by an article on how butterflies generate color in their wings. The brilliant iridescent blue of the various Morpho species, for example, comes not from pigment, but from “structural color.” Those wings harbor a nanoscale assemblage of shingled plates, whose shape and distance from one another are arranged in a precise pattern that disrupts reflective light wavelengths to produce the brilliant blue. To create that same blue out of pigment would require much more energy—energy better used for flying, feeding and reproducing.
Miles wondered if this capability could be exploited in some way. Where else might you want incredibly vivid color in a thin package?