Faces on Butterfly Wings

This is from the furtherest reaches of science, a book by Phillip Howse, retired Professor of Entymology at Southampton University, called ‘Seeing Butterflies’, but is not about their taxonomy, but of how to find pictures on the wings of butterflies, moths and other creatures. Sounds like the professor has been ingesting some chemicals from his misspent youth, but according to review by Michael McCarthy in the I newspaper, this is the real thing.

The pictures to be seen include birds, snakes, frogs, bats, falcons, spiders, hornets, salmanders, foxes, millipedes caterpilars and others. Professor Howse believes these images are the product of natural selection as a means of the flying critters escaping predators such as birds, startling them long enough for them to escape. Beats flashing their privates, I guess. Apparently we have not noticed them before because we see them from the conventional angle of wings spread out as in display cases, but that is now how they are in the wild.

Prof Hose produced a ground breaking book ‘Butterflies – Messages from Psyche,’ which showed some startling images like a snake on the wing tips of an atlas moth from SE Asia, and a fox’s head in the wings and body of the eyed hawkmoth in Britain, when seen upside down. The new book takes this idea further. The small tortoiseshell, a common British butterfly, has a bumblebee on its forewing.

McCarthy concludes: ‘his book is not only beautiful to look at, but it has the exhilarating feeling about it of discovery’, a rare thing in a world where we seem to have discovered everything.


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