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Butterfly Wing Scale Digital Image Gallery

Chinese Peacock Butterfly

Similar to its avian namesake, the male Chinese peacock butterfly is the more glamorous of the two sexes. Although slightly smaller than female peacock butterflies, males of the species are curiously striking. Sometimes simply appearing deep black, in certain light their wings glow with iridescent green, blue, violet, yellow, and red hues.

The Chinese peacock butterfly is found in areas ranging from southeastern China to South Korea, including Japan, Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands. There are seasonal and geographical variations observed throughout its range, which account for a total of eleven subspecies. Scientifically described as Papilio bianor, the Chinese peacock butterfly has more than one common name. In Japan, where it is cherished for its flashy colors and large size, the species is better known as karasuageha, named after the iridescent wing feathers of the crow, or karasu.

One of the characteristics that makes Chinese peacock butterflies so beautiful also increases their probability of survival. Frogs, lizards, mantises, dragonflies, and birds like to feed upon adult Chinese peacocks and may attack individuals or groups congregated at puddles or nectar sources. As the butterflies quickly disperse, the distinctive trailing tails on their hind wings may cause confusion. Often predators will attack the showy tails, rather than the vital head and thorax regions. Although they may be not as aesthetically pleasing after such an attack, they can carry on life functions.

Chinese peacock caterpillars are not as colorful as the adults, but are unusually sociable. The young larvae of the Chinese peacock butterfly have black heads and brown bodies covered in white hairs. As the caterpillars grow, they transform into a white-spotted light green. No matter what stage they are in, the gregarious larvae do not like to be alone. Instead, they prefer to feed and sleep together in large groups and, when a host plant is stripped bare, they disperse en masse to another suitable plant. The group remains together even after the larval stage is complete by pupating in the same tree.

Chinese Peacock Butterfly Images in Reflected Light

Wing Scale Pattern (Medium Magnification) - This image is an increased magnification of the photomicrograph displayed above. The bright blue and red wing scales of the Chinese peacock butterfly have an increasingly shaggy appearance.

Wing Scale Pattern (High Magnification) - This high magnification rendition of the same wing scales reveals greater shape definition than the other photomicrographs. However, interference patterns caused by the reflected light give this image an ethereal look.

Contributing Authors

Cynthia D. Kelly, Shannon H. Neaves, Laurence D. Zuckerman, and Michael W. Davidson - National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, 1800 East Paul Dirac Dr., The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, 32310.


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