Pterin pigment granules are responsible for both broadband light scattering and wavelength selective absorption in the wing scales of pierid butterflies.

Nathan I. Morehouse, Peter Vukusic, Ron Rutowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

64 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A small but growing literature indicates that many animal colours are produced by combinations of structural and pigmentary mechanisms. We investigated one such complex colour phenotype: the highly chromatic wing colours of pierid butterflies including oranges, yellows and patterns which appear white to the human eye, but strongly absorb the ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths visible to butterflies. Pierids produce these bright colours using wing scales that contain collections of minute granules. However, to date, no work has directly characterized the molecular composition or optical properties of these granules. We present results that indicate these granules contain pterin pigments. We also find that pterin granules increase light reflection from single wing scales, such that wing scales containing denser granule arrays reflect more light than those with less dense granule collections. As male wing scales contain more pterin granules than those of females, the sexual dichromatism found in many pierid species can be explained by differences in wing scale pterin deposition. Additionally, the colour pattern elements produced by these pterins are known to be important during mating interactions in a number of pierid species. Therefore, we discuss the potential relevance of our results within the framework of sexual selection and colour signal evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-366
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society
Volume274
Issue number1608
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 7 2007

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Pterins
Butterflies
light scattering
Pigments
butterfly
Light scattering
butterflies
wavelengths
pigment
granules
Color
pigments
wavelength
Light
Wavelength
color
sexual selection
optical properties
optical property
phenotype

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)

Cite this

Pterin pigment granules are responsible for both broadband light scattering and wavelength selective absorption in the wing scales of pierid butterflies. / Morehouse, Nathan I.; Vukusic, Peter; Rutowski, Ron.

In: Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society, Vol. 274, No. 1608, 07.02.2007, p. 359-366.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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