Microstructures and nanostructures of high Andean Penaincisalia lycaenid butterfly scales (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae): Descriptions and interpretations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)


The scales of one high Andean eumaeine lycaenid butterfly species with pale dorsal coloration and four species with vivid dorsal colour were investigated using field emission scanning electron microscopy. The micro- and nanostructures are illustrated, described, measured, and interpreted. The vivid colours in the species are caused by a pepper-pot nanostructure of Urania-type scales. This nanostructure is a three-dimensional lattice within the body of the individual scale. The scales of the non-vivid orange species are lacking this nanostructure and the surfaces of their scales show high microstructure irregularities. This absence of vivid colour may be correlated with thermal regulation. The irregularity of the scale microstructures suggests a heavy environmental pressure on the populations sampled. Previously unknown structural variations of Urania-type scales are also described. The existence of closed scale microcell structures, explained as an apomorphic character in the tribe Eumaeini, most probably evolved independently several times. It is hypothesized that scale micro- and nanostructure modifications develop syntopically within a population, which in turn can lead to rapid diversification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2935-2952
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Natural History
Issue number31
Publication statusPublished - Oct 5 2005



  • Andes
  • Discoloration
  • Eumaeini
  • Irregularity
  • Lycaenidae
  • Monomorphy
  • Penaincisalia
  • Scale microstructure
  • Scale nanostructure
  • South America
  • Sympatric speciation
  • Thecloxurina
  • Thermal regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this