Living With White Wings

Butterfly

White Monarch Butterfly Photo: Lisa, Flickr;

The color patterns of wings of butterflies are created by a mosaic of scales, each with its own color. A scale is a modified hair, a secretion of the underlying cell. Some scales have structural colors that are produced by the arrangement of molecules that constitute the scales. Other scales contain pigment which gives them their color. The underlying cell that produces the scale also produces the pigment and transports it into the scale. Monarch mutants with wings that are white instead of orange have a mutant protein, thought to be a component of the cytoskeleton of insect cells. The cytoskeleton would be responsible for moving pigment out of the cell and into the growing scale. In mutant white Monarchs, the cytoskeleton transport process is defective, the pigment is not transported into the scale and unpigmented scales are white.

*Kronforst, Marcus R. 2015. Exploring the molecular basis of monarch butterfly color pattern variation. Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research. 28: 127–130.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/pcmr.12353

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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