SPECIES Libelulas sp. / Zenithoptera viola
FRAME 14.5x14.5xD5cm Made from recycled products.
DESCRIPTION AKA Morpho dragonfly. Metallic blue wings on this small but pretty male dragonfly. The wing colours are iridescent and look different when viewed at an angle.
Blue pigment, rare in nature, is nowhere on these wings. Instead, the wings, perhaps powered by abundant oxygen, create a living layer cake of light-manipulating doodads.
In the tough inner layers, male Z. lanei wings form nanoscale spheres sandwiched between blankets of black pigment–filled nanolayers. This setup can enhance reflections of blue light and muddle other wavelengths. On top are two more light-trick layers, each made of wax crystals. The uppermost crystals, Guillermo Ferreira found, are shaped “like little leaves.”
The blue wings might help a male intimidate rivals for breeding territory around the edges of their palm tree swamp homeland. Male dragonflies don’t just dart and bluff. Guillermo Ferreira often sees a male “rushing toward the rival, grabbing the wings, biting the wings and then sometimes biting the head.”
R. Guillermo-Ferreira et al. The unusual tracheal system within the wing membrane of a dragonfly. Biology Letters. Vol. 13, May 2017. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2016.0960.