Like moths to a colorful flame | 3/14/2019 | Staff
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A nocturnal moth may be using its colorful wing patterns to attract a female mate, according to new research led by The University of Western Australia and the Adolphe Merkle Institute in Switzerland.

Animals that are active at night are thought to rely on senses other than vision, such as smell and vibrations but the new study has discovered a nocturnal moth with wing patterns that produce some highly unusual optical effects.

Author - Jennifer - Kelley - ARC - Future

Lead author Jennifer Kelley, an ARC Future Fellow in UWA's School of Biological Sciences, said that the study, published today in Current Biology, was based on a serendipitous discovery at the Western Australian Museum.

"Iridescent colors—those that change with viewing angle—are commonly observed in butterflies and hummingbirds that fly during the day and use these colors for signaling, such as during courtship," Dr. Kelley said.

Study - Coloration - Species - Dot-underwing - Moth

"This study is the first to find angle-dependent coloration in a nocturnal species, the Dot-underwing moth (Eudocima materna)."

Male moths were found to have three dark patches on each forewing that changed in size and darkness depending on the viewing angle, causing a shape-shifting effect. In females, the whole surface of the forewing darkens with changing angle.

Sex - Differences - Coloration - Males - Females

Sex differences in coloration typically evolve when males try to attract females using their flamboyant colors and courtship rituals. However, visual courtship behaviours are not known in nocturnal moths, which are considered to rely on pheromones for communication.

The team of biologists and physicists was able to reveal that these optical special effects are produced using specialized scales in the wings—a clever directional reflection coating straight from nature's toolbox of biological nanoengineered...
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