Wing colors based on arrangement of the multilayer structure of wing scales in lycaenid butterflies (Insecta: Lepidoptera)


Michio Imafuku, 619-15 Shizuichi-Ichihara, Sakyo, Kyoto 601-1123, Japan. Email:


Male wing colors and wing scale morphology were examined for three species of lycaenid butterflies: Chrysozephyrus ataxus, Favonius cognatus and F. jezoensis. Measurement of spectral reflectance on the wing surface with a spectrophotometer revealed species-specific reflection spectra, with one or two peaks in the ultraviolet and/or green ranges. Observations of wing scales using an optical microscope revealed that light was reflected from the inter-ridge regions, where transmission electron microscopy revealed a multilayer structure. Based on the multilayer dimensions obtained, three models were devised and compared to explain the measured reflectance spectrum. The results showed that the best fit is a model in which thicknesses of thin films of the multilayer system are not constant and air spaces between cuticle layers are more or less packed with cuticle spacers. This suggests that the specific wing colors of the species examined are produced by the species-specific arrangement of the multilayer structure of wing scales.