The Life of Animals | Morpho | A Morpho butterfly may be one of over 80 species of butterflies in the genus Morpho. They are Neotropical butterflies found mostly in South America as well as Mexico and Central America. Morphos range in wingspan from the 7.5 cm (3 inch) M. rhodopteron to the imposing 20 cm (8 inch) Sunset Morpho, M. hecuba. Many Morpho butterflies are colored in metallic, shimmering shades of blue and green.

These colors are not a result of pigmentation but are an example of iridescence: the microscopic scales covering the Morpho's wings reflect incident light repeatedly at successive layers, leading to interference effects that depend on both wavelength and angle of incidence/observance Thus the colors produced vary with viewing angle, however they are actually surprisingly uniform, perhaps due to the tetrahedral (diamond-like) structural arrangement of the scales or diffraction from overlying cell layers. The iridescent lamellae are only present on the dorsal side of their wings, leaving the ventral side brown.


While not all Morphos have iridescent coloration, they all have ocelli. In most species only the males are colorful, supporting the theory that the coloration is used for intrasexual communication between males. Some South American species are reportedly visible by the human eye up to one kilometre away. There also exist a number of white Morpho species, principal among these being M. catenarius and M. laertes. There is a nanotechnology concept based on the Morphos wings, that is being used to fight counterfeiters.
  Morpho butterflies are forest dwellers but will venture into sunny clearings to warm themselves. Males are territorial and will chase any rivals. The people along the Rio Negro in Brazil once exploited the territorial habits of the Blue Morpho (M. menelaus) by luring them into clearings with bright blue decoys. The collected butterfly wings were used as embellishment for ceremonial masks. Morpho butterflies feed on the juices of fermenting fruit with which they may also be lured. The larvae hatch from pale green, dewdrop-like eggs. 

The commoner Blue Morphos are reared en masse in commercial breeding programmes. Papered specimens are sold with the abdomen removed to prevent its oily contents from staining the wings. Significant quantities of live specimens are exported as pupae from several neotropical countries for exhibition in butterfly houses.

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