What Gives the Morpho Butterfly Its Magnificent Blue? | Deep Look

What Gives the Morpho Butterfly Its Magnificent Blue? | Deep Look

What does it mean to be blue? The wings of
a morpho butterfly are some of the most beautiful structures in nature, and yet they contain
no blue pigment. Artists use paint, dyes and ink to make their creations.
Nature draws on a palette of biological pigments, also known as biochromes. But there’s another way of producing color.
It’s called “structural color.” And it harnesses the physics of light at the nanoscale. Nipam Patel’s lab at UC Berkeley is studying
how morpho butterflies form the special structures that cover their wings — scales — while
still inside the pupae. Morphos live mostly in the tropics. When resting,
they fold their wings up, showing their dark earth-toned undersides. The brown, yellow and black colors are generated
by pigments. But the other side is all about structural
color. It gives their wings a vibrant, iridescent blue hue. Each scale is like a pixel, a tiny tile in
a larger mosaic in layers of overlapping rows. Researchers want to see how structural color
takes shape on the wings, but normally this happens inside the pupae, which is opaque.
So they’ve figured out how to remove the morpho wings from the pupae and grow them
in a Petri dish. Just like a developing photograph, patterns
and colors slowly appear on the ghostly white wings as each scale’s surface transforms
over time. Ridges on the scales’ surface are a key
component that affect how the wing spreads — or refracts — light, similar to a prism. When light hits these ridges, a phenomena
called constructive interference comes into play. The spacing within the ridges — which look like
little Christmas trees — perfectly reinforces specific wavelengths while canceling out others.
This is why your eyes perceive that shimmering blue. Scientists aren’t sure why, but vertebrates
and plants rarely produce blue as a pigment. For some reason, it’s a pigment you don’t
see much of in nature. So think of structural color as an evolutionary
work-around — a way of producing brilliant blues at a nano level. Not just on butterfly
wings, but on feathers, beetles — even our own bodies.

100 thoughts on “What Gives the Morpho Butterfly Its Magnificent Blue? | Deep Look

  1. Life is so weird. I watched this very video yesterday, and boom I saw such a butterfly today. What a coincidence, huh?

  2. Gah! you guys don't go deep enough! I'm always left with more questions! XD Is blue a harder pigment to create biologically? do the beetles and birds use the same scale method for creating their blue? Or a different structure? And how are blue eyes created? Are they made with structure while brown eyes are made with pigment? Or are all eyes made with either or???

  3. The ways you guys make each video..makes me think how magnificent ..nature is? you guys are doing a great job!! really appreciate your work team deep look!!

  4. These are available in our country. I'm yet to see one up close though. This and the jade vine are definitely in my bucket list.

  5. Your videos always remind me how unbelievably impressive nature is and how much we must proect our planet in order to preserve it. Great job. 🙂

  6. Anyone else here who used to think butterflies were so beautiful until you saw that one Spongebob episode…?

  7. I know this is random, but can a butterflies tongue regenerate? sorta off topic, but it would be nice to get an answer.

  8. Are you saying there is no blue pigment in my eyes? My eyes are actually white, but structurally show blue?

  9. wait, i thought eye color was due to pigmentation and at the end you say it's due to structural color? help me out here.

  10. lmao all these people saying that its god's amazing design and all that in the comment section, did you know of a certain pig called the babirusa that has tusks that grow so out of control that they pierce their eyes, faces, even penetrate their skulls. Is that another one of god's amazing designs?

  11. my family loves this channel the stories are just long enough and the telling of them is just amazingly put together an most often beautiful!great job thank you for the awsome channel keep it up!!!

  12. if some of you didn't understand what they said well they said that butterflies get their colour by some dust on their wings which catches light and turns them into any colour of the rainbow and speaking of rainbows that is also how rainbow's get their colour. Thank you. Like my comment if you understand.

  13. Why u people cant see a creator behind every creations. Yet u credit it all to the EVOLUTION.
    ……You do not see in the creation of the Most Merciful any inconsistency. So return [your] vision [to the sky]; do you see any breaks?
    (QURAN : 67:3)

  14. so sad, after such a magnificent presentation, of something that obviously reflects intellect design, they chalk it all up to accidental evolution and not Jehovah, God.

  15. Many years ago at the Detroit Zoo in the Butterfly exhibit one of these Butterflies landed on my face and scared me for a split second! XD

  16. Why did they remove the wings before the caterpillar ever felt flight… CRUEL…… why couldn't they examine it once it had died poor thing… they only live a few days surely

  17. just cause you people conveniently left out some facts I'll share them here the the wavelength of Blue light has a range from 400 to 480 nm the slits in the scales of the Morpho are 200 nm apart. Because the distance between slits corresponds to half of the wavelength of blue light, this is the wavelength that undergoes constructive interference. if that weren't enough the slits are attached to a base of melanin, a material that absorbs light, but lets not being intelligent design into play I mean its just prism shaped slits set at equal distance to half the wavelength / n Wavelength plus the coefficient of light absorption! you know simple random chance does complex equations all the time!

    “Measurements using index-matching techniques yield the complex refractive index of the cuticle material comprising the single-scale microstructure to be n=(1.56 plus or minus 0.01) + (0.06 plus or minus 0.01)i. This figure is required for theoretical modelling of such microstructure systems.” – Quantified interference and diffraction in single Morpho butterfly scales

  18. If human beings, as artists, can create color, then your conclusion that we "think of structural color as evolutionary work" is void of logic. There is a Grand Designer of the structural color.

  19. This video was in my recommended because I looked up videos of the Morpho Knight battle from Kirby Star Allies.

    But I’m grateful for the lesson, however unexpected!

  20. That means if you come to touch this beautiful butterfly you won't get your hands get imparted blue coloured thing??

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