Saturday, January 15, 2011

Overlooking the obvious

Weekend wildcard again.


Until now, the wing colors of many flies and wasps were dismissed as random iridescence. But they may be as distinctive and marvelous as the much-studied, much-celebrated wings of butterflies and beetles.

“Given favorable light conditions, they display a world of brightly patterned wings that are apparently unnoticed by contemporary biologists,” wrote researchers led by University of Lund entomologists Ekaterina Shevtsova and Christer Hansson in a December 3 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper: Stable structural color patterns displayed on transparent insect wings

Generations of biologists seem to have missed this partly because they didn’t look for it, and partly because the colors are most evident against a dark background. Against a white background, they’re invisible — which is exactly how most entomologists study transparent wings.

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