BUTTERFLIES

SOUL

Kingdom: Animalia... Phylum: Arthropoda... Class: Insecta... Order: Lepidoptera.. .Family: see text

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A Butterfly is an insect of the order Lepidoptera. Like all Lepidoptera, butterflies are notable for their unusual life cycle with a larval caterpillar stage, an inactive pupal stage, and a spectacular metamorphosis into a familiar and colorful winged adult form.

Butterflies are nested within the evolutionary tree of moths. Their origins may date back to the Cretaceous Period, ending 65 million years ago. Unfortunately, the fossil record is very limited. The oldest known fossil is an unnamed possible skipper butterfly from the Upper Palaeocene (around 57 million year old) of Fur, Denmark. One of the most beautifully preserved is a Metalmark butterfly (Voltinia dramba) from 25 million year old Dominican amber.
Butterflies are today distributed throughout the world except in the very cold and arid regions. Among the 180,000 species of Lepidoptera, there are an estimated 17,500 species of butterflies (Papilionoidea).

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The diverse patterns formed by their brightly coloured wings and their erratic yet graceful flight have made butterfly watching a fairly popular hobby.
Butterflies exhibit polymorphism, mimicry and aposematism. Some are known to migrate over large distances. Some butterflies have evolved symbiotic and parasitic relationships with social insects such as ants. Butterflies are important economically as one of the major agents of pollination. Culturally, butterflies are a popular motif in the visual and literary arts.

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Classification

Presently butterflies are classified in three superfamilies…1- Hesperioidea, consisting of the 'skippers'…2- Hedyloidea, consisting of the 'American moth-butterflies'… and 3- Papilionoidea or 'true butterflies'…This last one is the most popular of the 3.
The five families of true butterflies usually recognized in the Papilionoidea are…1-Family Papilionidae, the Swallowtails, Apollos and Birdwings...2-Family Pieridae, the Whites and Yellows...3-Family Lycaenidae, the Blues and Coppers, also called the Gossamer-Winged Butterflies...4-Family Riodinidae, the Metalmark butterflies...5-Family Nymphalidae, the Brush-footed butterflies.

Nutrition

Butterflies feed primarily on nectar from flowers. Some also derive nourishment from pollen, tree sap, rotting fruit, dung, and dissolved minerals in wet sand or dirt. Butterflies play an important ecological role as pollinators.
As adults, butterflies consume only liquids and these are sucked by means of their proboscis. They feed on nectar from flowers and also sip water from damp patches. This they do for water, for energy from sugars in nectar and for sodium and other minerals which are vital for their reproduction. Several species of butterflies need more sodium than provided by nectar. They are attracted to sodium in salt and they sometimes land on people, attracted by human sweat.

Senses

Butterflies sense the air for scents, wind and nectar using their antennas. The antennas come in various shapes and colours. The hesperids have a pointed angle or hook to the antennas, while most other families show knobbed antennas. The antennas are richly covered with sensillae. A butterfly's sense of taste is coordinated by chemoreceptors on the tarsi, which work only on contact, and are used to determine whether an egg-laying insect's offspring will be able to feed on a leaf before eggs are laid on it. Many butterflies use chemical signals, pheromones, and specialized scent scales (androconia) and other structures (coremata or 'Hair pencils' in the Danaidae) are developed in some species.

Vision is well developed in butterflies and most species are sensitive to the ultraviolet spectrum. Many species show sexual dimorphism in the patterns of UV reflective patches. Color vision may be widespread but has been demonstrated in only a few species. Some butterflies have organs of hearing and some species are also known to make stridulatory and clicking sounds.

The scales of butterflies are pigmented with melanins that give them blacks and browns, but blues, greens, reds and iridescence are usually created not by pigments but the microstructure of the scales. This structural coloration is the result of coherent scattering of light by the photonic crystal nature of the scales.
-Batesian mimics imitate other species to enjoy the protection of an attribute they do not share, aposematism in this case. The Common Mormon of India has female morphs which imitate the unpalatable red-bodied swallowtails, the Common Rose and the Crimson Rose.
-Mullerian mimicry occurs when aposematic species evolve to resemble each other, presumably to reduce predator sampling rates, the Heliconius butterflies of the Americas being a good example.
Wing markings called eyespots are present in some species; these may have an automimicry role for some species. In others, the function may be intraspecies communication, such as mate attraction. In several cases, however, the function of butterfly eyespots is not clear, and may be an evolutionary anomaly related to the relative elasticity of the genes that encode the spots.

Cryptic coloration is found in many butterflies. Some like the oakleaf butterfly are remarkable imitations of leaves. As caterpillars, many defend themselves by freezing and appearing like sticks or branches. Some papilionid caterpillars resemble bird dropping in their early instars. Some caterpillars have hairs and bristly structures that provide protection while others are gregarious and form dense aggregations. Some species also form associations with ants and gain their protection.
Behavioural defenses include perching and wing positions to avoid being conspicuous. Some female Nymphalid butterflies are known to guard their eggs from parasitoid wasps.

Eyespots and tails are found in many lycaenid butterflies and these divert the attention of predators from the more vital head region. An alternative theory is that these cause ambush predators such as spiders to approach from the wrong end and allow for early visual detection.

MIGRATION


Many butterflies, such as the Monarch butterfly, are migratory and capable of long distance flights. They migrate during the day and use the sun to orient themselves. They also perceive polarized light and use it for orientation when the sun is hidden.
Many butterflies migrate over long distances. Particularly famous migrations being those of the Monarch butterfly from Mexico to North America, a distance of about 4,000 to 4,800 kilometres (2500-3000 miles). Other well known migratory species include the Painted Lady and several of the Danaine butterflies. Spectacular and large scale migrations associated with the Monsoons are seen in peninsular India. Migrations have been studied in more recent times using wing tags and also using stable hydrogen isotopes.
Butterflies have been shown to navigate using time compensated sun compasses. They can see polarized light and therefore orient even in cloudy conditions. The polarized light in the region close to the ultraviolet spectrum is suggested to be particular important.
It is suggested that most migratory butterflies are those that belong to semi-arid areas where breeding seasons are short. The life-histories of their host plants also influence the strategies of the butterflies.

The four stages in the lifecycle of a butterfly…

Unlike many insects, butterflies do not experience a nymph period, but instead go through a pupal stage which lies between the larva and the adult stage (the imago). Butterflies are termed as holometabolous insects, and go through a complete metamorphosis.

  • Egg
  • Larva, known as a caterpillar
  • Pupa (chrysalis)
  • Adult butterfly (imago)

Butterflies in their adult stage can live from a week to nearly a year depending on the species. Many species have long larval life stages while others can remain dormant in their pupal or egg stages and thereby survive winters.
Butterflies may have one or more broods per year.

Egg

Butterfly eggs consist of a hard-ridged outer layer of shell, called the chorion. This is lined with a thin coating of wax which prevents the egg from drying out before the larva has had time to fully develop. Each egg contains a number of tiny funnel-shaped openings at one end, called micropyles; the purpose of these holes is to allow sperm to enter and fertilize the egg.
Butterfly eggs are fixed to a leaf with a special glue which hardens rapidly. As it hardens it contracts, deforming the shape of the egg. This glue is easily seen surrounding the base of every egg forming a meniscus. The same glue is produced by a pupa to secure the setae of the cremaster. This glue is so hard that the silk pad, to which the setae are glued, cannot be separated.
Eggs are usually laid on plants. Each species of butterfly has its own hostplant range and while some species of butterfly are restricted to just one species of plant, others use a range of plant species, often including members of a common family.
The egg stage lasts a few weeks in most butterflies but eggs laid close to winter, especially in temperate regions, go through a diapause stage, and the hatching may take place only in spring. In other rare northern cases, butterflies may lay their eggs in the spring and have them hatch in the summer.

Caterpillars

Larvae, or caterpillars, are multi-legged eating machines. They consume plant leaves and spend practically all of their time in search of food. Although most caterpillars are herbivorous, a few species such as Spalgis epius and Liphyra brassolis are entomophagous (insect eating). Some larvae, especially those of the Lycaenidae form mutual associations with ants. They communicate with the ants using vibrations that are transmitted through the substrate as well as using chemical signals. The ants provide some degree of protection to these larvae and they in turn gather honeydew secretions.
Caterpillars mature through a series of stages, called instars. Near the end of each instar, the larva undergoes a process called apolysis, in which the cuticle, a mixture of chitin and specialized proteins, is released from the epidermis and the epidermis begins to form a new cuticle beneath. At the end of each instar, the larva moults the old cuticle, and the new cuticle rapidly hardens and pigments. Development of butterfly wing patterns begins by the last larval instar.
Butterfly caterpillars have three pairs of true legs from the thoracic segments and up to 6 pairs of prolegs arising from the abdominal segments. These prolegs have rings of tiny hooks called crochets that help them grip the substrate.
Some caterpillars have the ability to inflate parts of their head to appear snake-like. Many have false eye-spots to enhance this effect. Some caterpillars have special structures called osmeteria which are everted to produce smelly chemicals. These are used in defense.
Host plants often have toxic substances in them and caterpillars are able to sequester these substances and retain them into the adult stage. This helps making them unpalatable to birds and other predators. Such unpalatibility is advertised using bright red, orange, black or white warning colours. The toxic chemicals in plants are often evolved specifically to prevent them from being eaten by insects. Insects in turn develop countermeasures or make use of these toxins for their own survival. This "arms race" has led to the co-evolution of insects and their host plants.

Wing disks are very small until the end of the larval stage, then they increase dramatically in size, are invaded by branching tracheae from the wing base that precede the formation of the wing veins, and begin to develop patterns associated with several landmarks of the wing.
Near pupation, the wings are forced outside the epidermis under pressure from the hemolymph, and although they are initially quite flexible and fragile, by the time the pupa breaks free of the larval cuticle they have adhered tightly to the outer cuticle of the pupa (in obtect pupae). Within hours, the wings form a cuticle so hard and well-joined to the body that pupae can be picked up and handled without damage to the wings.

Pupa

When the larva is fully grown, hormones such as prothoracicotropic hormone (PTTH) are produced. At this point the larva stops feeding and begins "wandering" in the quest of a suitable pupation site, often the underside of a leaf.
The larva transforms into a pupa (or chrysalis) by anchoring itself to a substrate and moulting for the last time. The chrysalis is usually incapable of movement, although some species can rapidly move the abdominal segments or produce sounds to scare potential predators.
The pupal transformation into a butterfly through metamorphosis has held great appeal to mankind. To transform from the miniature wings visible on the outside of the pupa into large structures usable for flight, the pupal wings undergo rapid mitosis and absorb a great deal of nutrients. If one wing is surgically removed early on, the other three will grow to a larger size. In the pupa, the wing forms a structure that becomes compressed from top to bottom and pleated from proximal to distal ends as it grows, so that it can rapidly be unfolded to its full adult size. Several boundaries seen in the adult color pattern are marked by changes in the expression of particular transcription factors in the early pupa.

Imago

The adult, sexually mature, stage of the insect is known as the imago. As Lepidoptera, butterflies have four wings that are covered with tiny scales (see photo). The fore and hindwings are not hooked together, permitting a more graceful flight. An adult butterfly has six legs, but in the nymphalids, the first pair is reduced. After it emerges from its pupal stage, a butterfly cannot fly until the wings are unfolded. A newly-emerged butterfly needs to spend some time inflating its wings with blood and letting them dry, during which time it is extremely vulnerable to predators. Some butterflies' wings may take up to three hours to dry while others take about one hour. Most butterflies and moths will excrete excess dye after hatching. This fluid may be white, red, orange, or in rare cases, blue.

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FACTS

Translation-Traducción-Traduction

English: Butterflies
The Monarch butterfly, migrates from Mexico to North America, a distance of about 4,000 to 4,800 km

Espagnol: Mariposas
El Monarco es una mariposa, que vas de Mexico a el norte de america, una distancia de 4000 a 4800 km.

Français: Papillons
Le Papillon Monarque voyage du Mexique à l`Amerique du Nord, une distance de 4000 à 4800 km

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