Rhopalocera? Is that yet another dinosaur?

Biology / 10 min read / 15 August 2021

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Lazy Science Reader,

No. The name Rhopalocera is not that of a dinosaur. It is the scientific name of butterflies. Yes, butterflies. We see them all around, we see dogs chasing them, we watching them happily fly around near nectar filled flowers, but do we really notice them as an organism? How much do we know about them, about their wings which we are so very fascinated by? Butterflies happen to be everybody’s favorite subject for photography and observations and as we try to capture their immaculate structure, they never fail to fascinate us. In this article, we will try to cover everything worth knowing about them.

Butterflies along with the families of moths and skippers belong to the order of insects namely Lepidoptera. The word Lepidoptera has a Greek origin which in English means 'scaly wings.' When we talk about anatomy, butterflies have a quiet simple structure compared to us humans. The exoskeleton of a butterfly is composed of chitin which is a protein which also forms the cell wall of fungi. The body of butterflies include three major components; the head, thorax and the abdomen. In detail, the eyes, antennae, proboscis (a sucking organ of an insect; for butterflies useful for sucking nectar from flowers) and palpi (an outgrowth present in the mouthpart of arthropods; is used for tactile or gustatory senses). The wings and legs of a butterfly are attached to the thorax. The abdomen also consists of reproductive organs and spiracles attached to it.

With their structure, do you ever question how they fly? Of course, we all know it’s because of their wings. The physics in the flight of butterflies is quite interesting. Butterflies move by the technique of clapping. When their wings flutter and come very close to one another, the air trapped between them suddenly gets expelled outside resulting in the formation of a jet which helps the butterflies to move in the opposite direction. The wings of butterflies are quite larger than what is required for flight. However, their wings play an essential role in their survival. The unpredictable movement of the wings makes it very hard for predators to catch a butterfly. Their wings attain their varied colors through several ways. One of them is pigmentation. Just like flowers get their colors from pigments like carotenoids, the wings of butterflies too get their colors from pigments. This pigment is called melanin. Another way through which butterflies' wings gain color is through a natural phenomenon called iridescence. The color of certain surfaces seems to vary when looked from different angles and this also occurs in soap bubbles and bird feathers. Pigmentation and iridescence together form a unique color.

Lastly, butterflies reproduce sexually just like humans. The male provides the sperms which fertilize the egg cells of the females. Butterflies mainly recognize each other through scents along with recognizing the vein structure of each other’s wings. The male attracts the female by releasing chemicals called pheromones and usually after mating, the male dies.

That’s all about butterflies for today. Stay tuned for more blogs by Lazy Science Reader!


  • Queen Alexandra's Birdwing is the largest butterfly which was discovered in Papua New Guinea in 1906
  • Western Pygmy Blue Butterfly is known to be the smallest butterfly in the world
  • The Brimstone Butterfly is a species with the longest lifespan among other butterflies of about 13 months
  • The Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed