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Morpho Butterflies

butterfly Morpho cyprisThere are around 80 species of the genus Morpho. They are found only in the Neotropical Region (South America including Mexico and Central America).

The blue is not a pigment colour (pigments are materials that change the colour of light by selective absorption-dyes are an example). Instead Morphos display structural colour which changes depending on the angle from which you are looking. For example in this species, Morpho cypris,  the colour from the front is a very bright blue but when seen from an angle this colour changes very quickly to black.

The scaled wings reflect light repeatedly due to their intricate structure, which resembles that of small optical devices known as photonic crystals.

Morphos once graced the insect cabinet of the Austro-Hungarian Empress Marie Thérèse (1717-1780). She took her studies seriously and employed French, German, Dutch and Italian naturalists to study her natural history collections and make Vienna a leading centre of European science.

These butterflies can be seen on display in the 'Window on Our World' in the Welcome area and also in 'Discover Nature' .