In order to transform into a butterfly, the caterpillar must first dissolve in the sticky soup in its pupa. Now, in an impressive new video, scientists have shown how this goo is reassembled into the delicate scales of a butterfly’s wings.
To see this process unfold in a living caterpillar during metamorphosis, the researchers behind the video bred Painted Lady (Painted Lady).Painted Lady) In their lab, a new study will soon be published in the journal. Minutes of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). As each caterpillar was hung on the pupa, the team carefully carved a small window into the cuticle, the hard, outermost cover of the pupa, exposing the developing front wing within it. These small openings were then sealed with a thin glass plate held in place with a dental composite. The team used a slightly modified version of this technique to reveal the hind wings of a developing butterfly.
As the souped caterpillars thus exposed continued their metamorphosis without being damaged by surgical procedures, the developing wings could be observed under a microscope. However, traditional microscopes that use a single wide ray of light to illuminate the subject can damage pretty scales. Instead, the team chose to use a speckle-correlated reflection phase-contrast microscope. It uses many small pin pricks to illuminate the subject. statement About research.
After the light bounced off at various points on the butterfly’s wings, the team created a detailed map of the structure of the wings by accurately analyzing where and how these points of light reflected. “This method allows us to separate light from different layers and reconstruct information to efficiently structure structures in 3D,” said Peter So, a professor of mechanical and biotechnology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). You can map it. ” Said in a statement.
A few days after the metamorphosis began, the team saw individual cells lined up neatly on the wings of a butterfly. In this study, the team said that by secreting chitin, a type of sugar, each cell produced a single wing scale. When these scales were formed, the cover scales above the wings and the ground scales below the cover were alternately patterned.
After that, long and thin ridges appeared on the surface of the scales and ran their lengths in orderly parallel lines. The entire pupal stage of Painted Lady usually lasts about 8-12 days, and these ridges appear in about 60% of the process, the authors write in the report.
“Many of these stages [of metamorphosis] It was previously understood, but now we can put them all together and continuously monitor what’s happening, so we can see more about how scales are formed. ” Said Anthony McDougal, lead author and research assistant at the Department of Mechanical Engineering. In the statement.
Prior to the new study, researchers captured snapshots of selected stages of this process, but now you can see the entire conversion play like a movie.
Originally published in Live Science.
New video reveals how “caterpillar soup” turns into sparkling butterfly wings
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