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Introduction

Introduction:

The "blue morpho butterflies" represent one of the best known and most spectacular genera of Nymphalidae. They are mostly large - some with wingspans up to 20 cm, and many species have irridescent scales that reflect a metallic blue color. The blue color is due to refraction of light by fine striations on the surfaces of the wing scales - there is no blue pigment. The undersides of most species are brown with a variety of eye spots and smaller ocelli - features that reveal their affinity with other satyrines.

The classic living Morpho experience is to observe males patrolling along forest trails and stream beds appearing as a series of metallic blue flashes as the sun catches their wings. Collectors often equip themselves with a card covered with blue aluminum foil to attract the attention of males, who may swoop in to defend their territory against the incursion of a perceived interloper.

While the most familiar species are large and blue, there is quite a range of diversity in the genus (which has led to the description of numerous subgenera). Some Morpho species (M. epistrophus, M. polyphemus) are white, others are dark brownish gray or tawny orange (M. hecuba, M. telemachus). Some Andean species are smaller and quite delicate (M. lympharis).

Unlike most other satyrine taxa, some Morpho larvae feed on dicots. Penz and DeVries (2002) note that this larval host switch appears to have occurred once within the genus, the more basal species retaining the ancestral monocot diet.

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