Saturday, 7 January 2017

Amazing Design Boosts Butterfly Flight

Long distance flier. Image courtesy of William Warby, Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0).

Joel Kontinen

Butterflies are designed to be effective fliers.

Notwithstanding their tiny brains, they are superb navigators.

A fresh study highlighted yet another of their amazing traits. Their tiny, 0.1 millimetre long scales on their wings are there for a purpose.

An article in Science states:

Those incredibly tiny scales … are arranged like roof shingles on the wing, making it a little rough. But until now, no one knew how that roughness affected flight. So a group of engineers filmed 11 free-flying monarch butterflies, first with their scales and then after their scales had been stripped off. Using a special chamber with 22 cameras to track the insects with submillimeter precision, they found that the scales boosted climbing efficiency between 16% and 82%, they reported today at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology.”

The article also included a biomimicry dimension. It went on to say that engineers might use this design to improve small flying robots.

Biomimicry or copying intelligent designs seen in nature is a big challenge to Darwinian evolution.

We should not forget that if something works, it has to be designed.

Butterflies are designed very well.


Pennisi, Elizabeth. 2017. Scaly wings help these butterflies soar. Science (5 January).