Iowa State University
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News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

5-21-08

Contacts:

Nathan Brockman, Reiman Gardens, (515) 291-5557 or 294-2567, mantisnb@iastate.edu

Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778, tbarron@iastate.edu

Butterfly

Downloadable photo courtesy of Nathan Brockman.

Reiman Gardens to display extremely rare male-female butterfly starting this weekend

AMES, Iowa -- A rare butterfly that emerged from a recent shipment to Reiman Gardens' Butterfly Wing will go on display this weekend. The butterfly, among a batch of 50 Leopard Lacewings (Cethosia cyane), emerged from its chrysalis on May 13 with both male and female markings.

The scientific term for an insect that exhibits female and male characteristics at the same time is "gynandromorph."

"Such insects are believed to be formed during early embryonic cell division due to a loss of a chromosome," said Nathan Brockman, curator for the Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing.

"They are extremely rare and highly coveted," Brockman said. "When this happens in butterflies, you usually have an individual that is split right down the middle with half of the butterfly exhibiting the female wing pattern and the other half the male wing pattern."

That's the case with Reiman Gardens' special butterfly. One wing contains the orange, black and white markings of a male. The other wing is colored in the pale greenish white, brown and black markings of the female.

"Usually a butterfly like this would exist in the wild and not be seen by humans, let alone photographed or videotaped," Brockman said.

"We've flown more than 75,000 butterflies here since the Butterfly Wing opened five years ago," Brockman said. "And this is the first we've received. Since this species is sexually dimorphic and the male and female characteristics are so distinct, it is a very special individual."

Brockman spotted the butterfly shortly after the student staff released it in the Butterfly Wing.

"Most of the lab staff don't study entomology, so they thought nothing of it," he said. "I was walking through the wing and saw it. I said, 'Go get the camera and the net!' I was extremely excited because I knew that it is really something special."

During its short life, Brockman said the unique butterfly exhibited some "weird behaviors."

"For example, it sort of looked like it was trying to lay eggs by the way it curved its abdomen as it was visiting flowers. But, of course, no eggs were laid," he said.

The rare butterfly is being preserved and will be displayed for educational purposes beginning this weekend. More information about the Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing is online.

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Download video here. Video courtesy of Nathan Brockman.

Quick look

A rare butterfly that emerged at Reiman Gardens May 13 will go on display this weekend. The Leopard Lacewings butterfly clearly exhibits female and male characteristics at the same time. Such a butterfly usually would exist in the wild and not be seen by humans. The butterfly was photographed and videotaped before being preserved for educational purposes.

Quote

"We've flown more than 75,000 butterflies here since the Butterfly Wing opened five years ago. And this is the first we've received. Since this species is sexually dimorphic and the male and female characteristics are so distinct, it is a very special individual."

Nathan Brockman
Curator, Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing