The physical mechanism of cuticular color in Phelotrupes auratus (Coleoptera, Geotrupidae)


Mayumi Akamine, Office for Promotion of Gender Equality, Hirosaki University, 3 Bunkyo-cho, Hirosaki, Aomori 036-8561, Japan. Email:


The physical mechanism of cuticular color in Phelotrupes auratus was investigated by polarized inspection, spectrophotometry and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). No color change was observed when viewed through either a right- or left-handed circular polarizer. Further, under the incidence of linearly polarized light, the reflected intensity was markedly reduced when observed through a linear polarizer set with its optical axis perpendicular to that of the incident light. These results indicate that P. auratus does not possess any circularly polarizing reflectors. TEM observations revealed a total of ten or twelve thin layers (about 60–120 nm in thickness) of two types of material (electron-dense and electron-lucent) alternately stacked in the epicuticle. The thickness of the layers in the different color forms of the beetle corresponded to the peak wavelengths in the reflectance spectra, λmax(α), with thicker layers found in beetles exhibiting reflectance peaks at longer wavelengths and vice versa. Based on these findings, we concluded that all the cuticular color forms of P. auratus were not produced by a circularly polarizing reflector but by a simple multilayer reflector.