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Scientists change butterflies wing color in just six generations

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posted on Aug, 7 2014 @ 03:51 PM
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Scientists change butterflies wing color in just six generations


Yale University scientists have chosen the most fleeting of mediums for their groundbreaking work on biomimicry: They've changed the color of butterfly wings.

In so doing, they produced the first structural color change in an animal by influencing evolution. The discovery may have implications for physicists and engineers trying to use evolutionary principles in the design of new materials and devices.

The research appears this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"What we did was to imagine a new target color for the wings of a butterfly, without any knowledge of whether this color was achievable, and selected for it gradually using populations of live butterflies," said Antónia Monteiro, a former professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale, now at the National University of Singapore.

In this case, Monteiro and her team changed the wing color of the butterfly Bicyclus anynana from brown to violet. They needed only six generations of selection.

Little is known about how structural colors in nature evolved, although researchers have studied such mechanisms extensively in recent years. Most attempts at biomimicry involve finding a desirable outcome in nature and simply trying to copy it in the laboratory.

"Today, materials engineers are making complex materials to perform multiple functions. The parameter space for the design of such materials is huge, so it is not easy to search for the optimal design," said Hui Cao, chair of Yale's Department of Applied Physics, who also worked on the study. "This is why we can learn from nature, which has obtained the optimal solutions in many cases via natural evolution over millions of years."

Indeed, the scientists explained, natural selection algorithms can select for multiple characteristics simultaneously -- which is standard operating procedure in the natural world.

The desired color for the butterfly wings was achieved by changing the relative thickness of the wing scales -- specifically, those of the lower lamina. It took less than a year of selective breeding to produce the color change from brown to violet.


If we can start to have a better understanding of how this process takes place naturally, it may lead us to be able to understand how these changes can happen in other species, not just the butterfly.

The researchers involved in this study, picked this particular butterfly because they thought "If these changes can happen in nature, than can we make them happen too?"

This study revealed that butterfly populations harbor high levels of genetic variation regulating scale thickness that lets them react quickly to new selective conditions, which we know is important. Adapt or die.




posted on Aug, 7 2014 @ 03:56 PM
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Haven't we been doing this with selective breeding for a long, long time now in animals? Basically, they determined why something was the way it was and once they knew, they used the same selective breeding principles we've always used.



posted on Aug, 7 2014 @ 04:18 PM
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a reply to: ketsuko

Yes selective breeding has been done for a while now but in this study they produced the first structural color change in an animal by influencing evolution. It's different from what has been happening before.



posted on Aug, 7 2014 @ 04:26 PM
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a reply to: knoledgeispower

I'm confused as to how. The quote indicates to me that they simply discovered what would drive the change they wanted and then selectively bred for that specific trait. In other words, they discovered that color was affected by thickness of the wing scales, so they then knew to selectively breed for scale thickness. The only thing that changed was knowing for sure what they were selectively breeding. Selective breeding is not evolution.



posted on Aug, 7 2014 @ 04:36 PM
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a reply to: knoledgeispower

Let me know when they breed a couple of 'em ... and come up with a cat.



posted on Aug, 7 2014 @ 04:45 PM
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a reply to: Snarl

This is not how evolution works.



posted on Aug, 7 2014 @ 04:46 PM
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a reply to: ketsuko

Selective breeding and evolution are two sides of the same coin. Exactly the same mechanisms at play, one artificial, one natural.



posted on Aug, 7 2014 @ 05:08 PM
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a reply to: Snarl

Why would you want that when you can get a Griffin?

edit on 7-8-2014 by knoledgeispower because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 7 2014 @ 06:14 PM
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originally posted by: GetHyped
a reply to: Snarl

This is not how evolution works.


Well ... since we're just making up anything we want in this thread, I think I'm going for a genie. Consensus science will one day 'prove' it's doable. You've just gotta have faith.



posted on Aug, 7 2014 @ 06:33 PM
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a reply to: GetHyped

I see. So by changing the color of the one area of the butterfly's wings, they created a completely new species of butterfly? When the Peppered Moths all started becoming dark instead of light colored, did they become a new species of Peppered Moth? In this case, it was natural selection pressures that caused the rare melanistic form to be selected for, but Peppered Moths were Peppered Moths.

These butterflies are still what they were despite the changes just like the Chihuahua and the Great Dane are the same species.

And seriously, if you want to make an argument for anything, this is actually an example of intelligent design - an outside intelligent force manipulating a natural process.


edit on 7-8-2014 by ketsuko because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 7 2014 @ 09:51 PM
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a reply to: Snarl




posted on Aug, 7 2014 @ 10:46 PM
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a reply to: Snarl

Except we're not, just you are. I'm humoring you because for some reason you decided to be silly right off the bat



posted on Aug, 7 2014 @ 10:53 PM
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a reply to: knoledgeispower

Krylon esse!



posted on Aug, 8 2014 @ 04:37 AM
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a reply to: ketsuko

Species is a human construct. There is no magical barrier between species, any more then there is between neighbouring countries. Enough accumulated genetic change and they will no longer be considered part of that species.



posted on Aug, 8 2014 @ 04:39 AM
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a reply to: Snarl

Yes, people do appear to be making up nonsense in this thread but that's because of their failure to grasp evolution more than anything else. A butterfly turning into a cat is a laughably ignorant Creationist strawman.



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