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Rhopalocera spp. is also known as the Arctic Skipper, Dreamy Dust-wing, Painted Lady, and many other names, but it is most often recognized as a butterfly. This species is present in warm places such as Costa Rica, North America, and the mountains of Mexico. They are distinguished by vivid colors such as black, red, and purple, depending on the genus to which the butterfly belongs. The lifecycle of butterflies is close to that of many other species. They go through four stages of their life cycle: embryo, larva, pupa, and adult. Lepidoptera has a more distinctive feature that differentiates it from the rest because of the presence of scales on the outer parts of its body that protects it from external injuries. It also has compound eyes that enable it to identify colors like yellow, green, and red. Butterflies evolved many other similar species between 40 to 5o years ago. Many people use butterflies colored wings for decoration while some rear them in confined areas for beautification purposes. Rhopalocera spp. is an impressive group of butterflies, and are well adapted to warm areas.
Species Profile of the Butterfly (Rhopalocera spp.)
The common butterflies found in well vegetated and warm areas all over the world are the Rhopalocera spp., which involve a group of butterflies including Arctic Skipper, Dreamy Dust-wing, Painted Lady, and many other groups of butterflies. They live in places with warm conducive climates like Costa Rica, North America, Mexico mountains and many other places as long as the environmental conditions are favorable for their lives (Hanski, 2011). Butterflies love nature, and they mostly fly in groups as they look for nectar and water. This insect is known for having an interesting life cycle, anatomy, and an evolution history. They are fascinating because many people have developed an interest in them based on their beauty.
Many insects are exposed to risks worldwide dues to habitat destruction, but luckily butterflies are not much at risk. Butterflies are known for the beautiful colors that they have like purple, green, red, yellow, and white with most colors resembling their environment, thus helping them in camouflage (Hanski, 2011). Their body are divided into head, thorax, and abdomen. Butterfly sizes range from a tiny 1/8 inch to about 12 inches, with weights between 0.24 to 0.75 grams. One unique feature that they possess making them different from most insects in the varying colors. The body of many butterfly species are covered with scales that protects them from minor external injuries. The organisms do not have a complex life cycle.
Butterflies are known to have a life cycle that consists of four stages. The life cycle is the egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The eggs are laid by female butterflies on leaves. They have an outer layer of shell that protects them from physical damage (Cinici, 2013). The eggs cannot dry because they are coated with a thin layer of wax. Butterflies’ eggs are not the same, and the sizes vary based on the butterfly species. Eggs are laid in batches ranging from one hundred eggs to two hundred. The egg stage which is also the first stage lasts for a few weeks before they hatch into larvae.
The larva is the second stage in the life cycle of a butterfly. It is at this point that the caterpillars consume a lot of plant leaves and most of their time is spent eating. Although many caterpillars are known to be herbivores, a few species are identified as being predators. Spalgis epius feeds on scale insects making it be among the predators. At larval stage, some form mutual associations with other small creatures like the ants (Cinici, 2013). Larvae of Lycaenidae communicates with ants through vibrations and chemical signals thus receiving protection from the ants while they intern collect food for the ants like honeydew secretions.
When larva has fully grown, it stops feeding and begins searching for a concealed location and spins a cocoon that protects it in the pupa stage. Pupa can also be identified as the chrysalis and usually hangs facing down. The transforming stage in pupa can be seen from the outside as the wings fold flat on the insects' vertical surface, with the legs and antennae between them. The insect's reproductive stage is the winged adult. At this point, the butterflies body is covered by scales and their heads dominated by two large compound eyes. The compound eyes help them in distinguishing motions or shapes of flowers but cannot view distant objects. At this point, the insect's antennae and wings are well developed and can fly and detect odors from flowers (Cinici, 2013). The butterfly can start flying in the adult stage after the wings have opened. Butterflies are well adapted to most environments; the success to this is due to its evolved structures that enable it to thrive in many places.
Butterfly Evolution helps in understanding the origin and diversification of these insects through geological time and over the earth surface (Brakefield, Beldade & Zwaan, 2009). Butterflies accepted classification is the following: Arthropoda (Phylum), Insecta (Class), Lepidoptera (Order), Rhopalocera (Suborder), Rhopalocera spp. (Species). The earliest known fossils of butterflies are those from the Eocene epoch and are dated to have existed from 40-50 million years ago (Merrill, Van, Scott & Jiggins, 2011). It is believed that some species of butterflies evolved from moths. Butterflies are found in many places worldwide, except in areas with an adverse climate like in Antarctica. Based on paleontology, there is evidence where 50 butterfly fossils have already been identified. Some researchers have theorized that butterflies might have most likely originated during the period of Cretaceous when the continent have different climates from the present day. Co-evolution, mimicry, and hybridization of the butterflies with host plants have been used in their speciation (Hanski, 2011). Butterflies have different structures that make them adapted to many areas because of how they function.
Structure and Function
Butterflies have different structures characterized by specific features. The abdomen of a butterfly consists of ten segments. The abdomen also contains the genital organs and gut. The first eight sections of the butterfly's body have spiracles. Additionally, the terminal part of the insect is modified for production (Ingram & Parker, 2008). The antennae of a butterfly are used in sensing the air for scents and wind. This is one of the vital organs that determines the butterflies' behavior as they serve for food and during migration. The antennae may have various colors and shapes. The shapes can be pointed or hook like while some other species have knobbed antennae. The insect's antennas covered with sensory organs identified as sensillae. The senses help the butterfly in identifying areas with flowers where they can feed on nectars and wet areas with water.
Butterflies use the sense of smell in identifying their environments. Many of the butterflies communicate using colors and scents (Robinson, Kitching, Beccaloni & Hernández, 2010). They may also involve the use of chemical discharges from the rare wind glands in attracting mates. Some species of butterflies lays up to 250 eggs per day. Butterflies feed on nectar and water through sipping by the help of proboscis which is a sucking tube coiled under their head. Some also mimic there surrounding to escape predators (Heliconius, 2012).
To sum up, Rhopalocera spp. is an interesting group of butterflies. Their life cycle involves four stages which are the egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Some butterflies have adopted mimicry to help them escape predators. The compound eyes are used in identifying colors like yellow, green, and red. The butterflies evolved between 40 -50 years ago based on the fossil dating. These organisms are found in warm environments like Costa Rica, North America, and Mexico mountains. Some people use butterflies as a decoration by rearing them in consolidated areas. The Lepidoptera is a fascinating butterfly because it has interesting adaptations and it has never been found in the Antarctica.
Brakefield, P. M., Beldade, P., & Zwaan, B. J. (2009). The African butterfly Bicyclus anynana: a model for evolutionary genetics and evolutionary developmental biology. Cold Spring Harbor Protocols, 2009(5), pdb-emo122.
Cinici, A. (2013). From caterpillar to butterfly: A window for looking into students’ ideas about life cycle and life forms of insects. Journal of Biological Education, 47(2), 84-95.
Hanski, I. A. (2011). Eco-evolutionary spatial dynamics in the Glanville fritillary butterfly. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(35), 14397-14404.
Ingram, A. L., & Parker, A. R. (2008). A review of the diversity and evolution of photonic structures in butterflies, incorporating the work of John Huxley (The Natural History Museum, London from 1961 to 1990). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 363(1502), 2465-2480.
Merrill, R. M., Van Schooten, B., Scott, J. A., & Jiggins, C. D. (2011). Pervasive genetic associations between traits causing reproductive isolation in Heliconius butterflies. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 278(1705), 511-518.
Robinson, G. S., Ackery, P. R., Kitching, I. J., Beccaloni, G. W., & Hernández, L. M. (2010). HOSTS―a Database of the World’s Lepidopteran Hostplants. Natural History Museum, London.
Heliconius Genome Consortium. (2012). Butterfly genome reveals promiscuous exchange of mimicry adaptations among species. Nature, 487(7405), 94-98.
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