Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies)
Family: Nymphalidae (Brush-footed Butterflies)

Genus/species: Morpho peleides

Top-side (dorsal)

Blue Morpho 3175390675_70bdc9fe60_o

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Among the largest butterflies in the world, wing span from five to eight inches.

Color of Life notation: Color Sources, structural color, iridescence.
Wing tops are an iridescent blue, edged with black, caused not by a true color, such as the pigment dye of blue jeans, but by structural coloration resulting from tiny, overlapping scales that cover their wings. Because of the precise angle of the ridges they form, the scales which reflect blue light back to our eyes. The contrasting underside of the wing is brown with a confusion of eyespots that can startle a potential predator, thereby allowing the butterfly to escape predators. This is called deistic behavior.
Females less brilliantly colored.

Ref. California Academy of Sciences Color of Life Exhibit, May 2015

underside and topside

Blue Morpho Butterfly 4330619902_ec31e9c058_b

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Tropics of Latin America from Mexico to Colombia. Feeds and sleeps on or near the forest floor, but when mating, they fly throughout forest layers.

DIET IN THE WILD: Caterpillar, it chews leaves but adults can’t chew so they drinks juices of rotting plants and animals, tree sap, and wet mud, sipping all with its straw-like proboscis.

Underside (ventral)

REPRODUCTION: Like most butterflies, males release pheromones to attract females. Fertilized eggs hatch in about 9 days. The caterpillar of  M. peleides is red-brown with patches of bright green.

Blue Morpho Butterfly 8677456846_7df05acbb0_oLONGEVITY: Total lifespan: egg to adult, about 4.5 months; adults (butterflies): about 1 month.

PREDATORS: Birds (jacamar and flycatcher) and large insects.

CONSERVATION: IUCN Not Evaluated, but under some pressure as trophies for collectors and deforestation of tropical forests..

REMARKS:  M. peleides brilliant reflection is so intense that pilots report seeing their flash of color as the butterflies warm themselves above the treetops. Different angles of view (and so different angles of reflecting ridges) produce variations in the shades of blue perceived.


California Academy of Sciences Rainforest 2017

California Academy of Sciences Color of Life Exhibit 2015

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