Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Glasswing Butterflies Want To Make Something Perfectly Clear | Deep Look

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Ever wished you could be invisible?

Fade into the background.



For glasswing butterflies, the rainforests of South and Central America are full of hungry

predators theyd like to hide from.

Some butterflies use cryptic camouflage to hide themselves by blending in with their


Others use aposematism -- vivid colors and patterns that warn predators theyre toxic.

Glasswings do have some warning markings -- see that bright slash of white on black?

But thats not their main defense.

Their transparent wings enable them to disappear into the background wherever they go.

Even while flying.

This little caterpillar is a baby glasswing and it's already good at staying out of sight.

You can see through parts of its exoskeletonoffering a window into its most recent

leafy meal.

That exoskeleton is made of a material called chitin thats both strong and flexible.

In most insects, chitin is mixed up with pigments that give it color.

But some parts of the glasswing lack pigment entirely.

Once its had its fill, the caterpillar suspends itself under a leaf or stem.

It becomes a chrysalis.

Inside, its undergoing a metamorphosis.

About a week later, the transformation is complete.

An adult butterfly emerges.

It unfurls its delicate, new wings, revealing its window panes for the first time.

At the Nipam Patel Lab at UC Berkeley, researcher Aaron Pomerantz is studying how exactly the

glasswing butterfly forms those transparent wings.

Theyre made of that same clear chitin from when it was a caterpillar.

But in these wings, the chitins all stretched out -- incredibly thin and stiff.

And that layer of chitin is exposed.

Other butterfly wings are covered in colorful overlapping scales that protect their wings

from the elements.

The glasswing does have colored scaleson its body and the fragile edges of its wings.

But the scales on these window panes dont look like scales at all, more like tiny hairs.

Theyre skinny and spread out -- they let the light pass by.

But having clear wings doesnt help you hide if theyre shiny.

Zoom way in past the hairs, and youll see the surface looks rough.

Its covered in miniature towers made of wax.

Theyre called nanopillars.

If the surface of the wing was smooth, light would bounce off of it.

The nanopillars are natures original anti-glare coating.

Researchers found that when they used chemicals to remove the nanopillars, the wings glimmered


While some other butterflies gleam in the sunlight, the glasswing reflects almost no

light at all.

Glasswings excel at being dull.

And that helps them hide in plain sight

What makes glasswings special isnt their luster, but their ability to fade away.

Heya Deep Peeps, it's Laura.

We've got more butterfly-themed Deep Look episodes for ya.

Like why behind every beautiful butterfly theres a voracious caterpillar.

And how blue morpho butterflies have some of the most brilliant blues in nature, without

any blue pigment at all.

Instead they harness the physics of light at the nanoscale.

See ya next time.

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