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Stable structural color patterns displayed on transparent insect wings.

Publiceringsår: 2011
Språk: Engelska
Sidor: 668-673
Publikation/Tidskrift/Serie: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Volym: 108
Nummer: 2
Dokumenttyp: Artikel i tidskrift
Förlag: National Acad Sciences


Color patterns play central roles in the behavior of insects, and are

important traits for taxonomic studies. Here we report striking and

stable structural color patterns—wing interference patterns (WIPs)

—in the transparent wings of small Hymenoptera and Diptera,

patterns that have been largely overlooked by biologists. These extremely

thin wings reflect vivid color patterns caused by thin film

interference. The visibility of these patterns is affected by the way

the insects display their wings against various backgrounds with

different light properties. The specific color sequence displayed

lacks pure red and matches the color vision of most insects, strongly

suggesting that the biological significance of WIPs lies in visual

signaling. Taxon-specific color patterns are formed by uneven

membrane thickness, pigmentation, venation, and hair placement.

The optically refracted pattern is also stabilized by microstructures

of the wing such as membrane corrugations and spherical cell structures

that reinforce the pattern and make it essentially noniridescent

over a large range of light incidences. WIPs can be applied to

map the micromorphology of wings through direct observation

and are useful in several fields of biology. We demonstrate their

usefulness as identification patterns to solve cases of cryptic species

complexes in tiny parasitic wasps, and indicate their potentials

for research on the genetic control of wing development through

direct links between the transregulatory wing landscape and interference

patterns we observe in Drosophila model species. Some

species display sexually dimorphic WIPs, suggesting sexual selection

as one of the driving forces for their evolution.


  • Zoology


  • ISSN: 1091-6490

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