Dazzling pictures have been released by scientists working on tropical butterflies. As part of their wide ranging study they are finding out how butterfly behaviour relates to the evolution of wing shape.
Field biologist Phil DeVries from the Univeristy of New Orleans holds a bright blue male Morpho anaxibia. The butterfly genus Morpho occurs from Mexico through Central and South America and contains some of the most visually stunning butterflies.
Here a butterfly shows how each side of its wings can be different. The bright blue pigment on the top side of the wing can be seen through a tear caused by a bird attack.
Morpho butterflies: males (L), females (R). The top two rows are canopy species, the bottom are understory species. The canopy species show elongated forewings for gliding flight, understory species have wings adpated for manoeuvrable flapping flight.
The researchers want to understand many aspects of butterfly life including how their wing-shape differs according to where they live and how they behave. Here field assistants use a trap to collect the insects.
Cithaerias menander is common in Central and South American lowland rainforests. Studies using traps have provided important clues about how long it lives, how far it moves and its population's genetic structure.
Agrias amydon, this rare Costa Rican canopy butterfly is feeding on banana bait in a trap.
Studies have found this widespread Amazonian species Bia actorion lives most of its life within about 100m of forest. The team from the US publish their recent study in the Journal of Animal Ecology.
This common canopy species Panacea prola is widespread throughout South American rain forests. Long-term monitoring studies suggest it is intolerant of severely disturbed forests.
Cithaerias bandusia lives in the understory part of the forest and is found in the southern Amazon forest of Brazil. The research team is made up of Dr Phil DeVries & Dr Carla Penz from the University of New Orleans & Dr Ryan Hill from Harvard University.
A seldom seen side of the Morpho achilles butterfly, its caterpillar. This picture was taken in Amazonian Ecuador.
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