The blue wings of this dragonfly may be surprisingly alive | Science News

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It's Alive

The blue wings of this dragonfly may be surprisingly alive

Adults go to great lengths to shine blue

By
7:00am, June 30, 2017
morpho dragonfly

STRANGER WINGS  Among natural blues, the wings of this morpho dragonfly create color in a really complicated way.

An adult insect wing is basically dead.

So what in the world were tiny respiratory channels doing in a wing membrane of a morpho dragonfly?

Rhainer Guillermo Ferreira was so jolted by a scanning electron microscope image showing what looked like skinny, branching tracheal tubes in a morpho wing that he called in another entomologist for a second opinion. Guillermo Ferreira, then at Kiel University in Germany, showed the image to a colleague who also was “shocked,” he remembers. A third entomologist was called in. Shock all around.

The shimmering, bluest-of-skies wings of male Zenithoptera dragonflies might be unexpectedly and fully alive, Guillermo Ferreira says. That bold idea will take some testing. So for now, he and colleagues report the unusual tracheal respiratory system, the first in any insect wing as far as they know, in the May Biology Letters.

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