In his spare time, biochemist Linden Gledhill collaborates with artists, filmakers, and advertising professionals to create photos of everything from the growth of ice crystals to insects in flight.
For his latest project, Gledhill collected specimens of rare and beautiful butterflies from a company called Butterflies And Things. Then he put them under the microscope and used a set of high-powered lights to create abstract photos of their wings.
From the unusual patterns and shapes produced by the wings to the beautiful colours, it’s hard to believe the photos are of something from nature.
Gledhill shared a number of the butterfly photos with us here, but you can check out the rest on his Flickr page.
“Its always a surprise when you look at the scales at such a high magnification, because you cannot predict the shapes and patterns from just looking at the wings,” explains Gledhill.
Butterfly wings are made of very thin layers of a hardened protein called chitin, which is also what your fingernails and toenails are made of. On top of the layers of chitin are microscopic scales, which are the source of the stunning colours in Glendhill’s photos.
The scales on the wings are responsible for protecting and insulating butterflies and aiding in air flow along their wings during flight. The scales also aid in heat absorption — butterflies are cold-blooded, relying on external sources of heat for warmth.
Butterflies use their colours to scare off potential predators. Because most colourful butterflies are filled with nasty toxins, predators know not to eat them. Their colours are also used for camouflage and mate attraction.
Below is a close-up of the Cithaerias pireta aurorina.
Here’s another close-up image:
Graphium sarpedon, or Common Bluebottle, is a type of swallowtail butterfly. They are found in South and Southeast Asia.
Chrysiridia Rhipheus, or the sunset moth, is a day-flying moth, known for its colourful, iridescent wings. It is most often found on Madagascar.
Here is a further close-up of the sunset moth.
The Comet moth (or Madagascan moon moth) is one of the world’s largest silk-producing moths. It is native to the rainforests of Madagascar.
Troides hypolitus, or Rippon’s Birdwing, is a type of butterfly known for its massive wings and birdlike flight. It is found in the Australasia eco-zone.
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