A Butterfly’s Beauty Comes From Organized Chaos – Facts So Romantic

This classic Facts So Romantic post was originally published in June, 2013.

Take a look at a butterfly’s wing, and you can learn a lesson about life. Not that it’s beautiful, or fragile, or too easily appreciated only when it’s fading—though all that is true, and evident in a wing.

Look very close, at the edge of a pattern, where one color turns to another. The demarcation isn’t so abrupt as it seems at arm’s length. It’s not a line, but rather a gradient.

This is a lesson about uncertainty.

A butterfly wing under high magnificationPhoto by Dino Quinzani via Flickr

A butterfly’s colors come from its scales, each a single cell, pigmented a single hue. At pattern boundaries, scales of different colors intermingle. Transitions and shading are achieved by varying the proportions of the mix. It’s beautiful. It is also, in the language of molecular biology, a model for a stochastic mechanism of gene expression.

Each scale’s fate is not preordained. Cells on the surface of a swallowtail’s wings, for example, were not originally specialized to be yellow or blue or black. Instead they contain genes potentially capable of producing each of those pigments.

What determines the color of each butterfly scale is, in a word, chance.…

Read More…

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s