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撲朔迷離的昆蟲翼顏色新天地

時間:2011-01-15 13:41 點擊:
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仔細觀察下,貌似弱不禁風而透明的昆蟲翼顯示了之前未得賞識的顏色境界;這可是肉眼可見但卻視若無睹,被忽視了數世紀。

迄今,許多蒼蠅和黃蜂翼的顏色被視為胡亂的彩虹色,其實,它們的奇特而不可思議的翅膀顏色,可媲美獲廣泛研究以及頗馳名的蝴蝶和甲蟲翅膀顏色。

在《美國國家科學院12月3日議程》論文中,由瑞典隆德大學的艾克特里納.舍碩瓦和克里斯特.韓遜二人帶領的研究員寫道,“在有利條件下,它們顯示一個圖案鮮明的翅膀天地,當代生物學家顯然與之擦肩而過。”

黃蜂和蒼蠅的翅膀由兩層壓縮的透明甲殼質構成,光線從上面反射而混合成顏色。研究員寫道,就像水面浮油和肥皂形成泡沫。科學家認為,透明翅膀的著色“乃肥皂泡沫彩虹色效果,隨意改變的顏色在翅膀表面上閃爍。”

不過,研究員發現,甲殼質的表面變化把彩虹色過濾掉。剩下的顏色證明是穩定的,幾乎可從任何角度看到,但卻因物種和性別的差異而大不相同。

因為沒有去尋找或是那顏色在黑暗背景下最明顯,世代生物學家似乎與之擦肩而過。背景若是白的,它們就無法看到 – 那正是 昆蟲學家如何研究透明翅膀。

美國賓夕法尼亞大學進化生態學者兼研究合著者丹尼爾.簡森說,“你拿翅膀對著光就能看到葉脈。你若放在顯微鏡下,可試圖看清翼后狀況。那是獲取翅膀顏色的對照法。”

研究員對著黑色背景在顯微鏡下研究翅膀。然而,當簡森開始一看時,翅膀在昆蟲黑體上移動時,其顏色可被肉眼見到。

“它們像小鉆石般閃亮,”他說。

研究員認為,翼著色有特殊功能,尤其是交配功能,類似蝴蝶、甲蟲及其他擁有較受賞識花紋的昆蟲。

有關圖案亦有助于科學家去分辨難以區別的物種。研究員已使用透明翼顏色去鑒定三種新黃蜂。

簡森認為,至少還有一打別種昆蟲(包括蜻蜓、蟑螂及草蜢),其透明翅膀會與黃蜂和蒼蠅的一樣五彩繽紛。

他說,“我預想分類學家將返回他們的動物去用另一種觀點看待,像是發現全新的一批動物。”

譯文:Intricate world of insect-wing colour discovered


A closer look at seemingly drab, transparent insect wings hasrevealed realms of previously unappreciated colour, visible to thenaked eye yet overlooked for centuries.

Until now, the wing colours of many and wasps weredismissed as random iridescence. But they may be as distinctive andmarvellous as the much-studied, much-celebrated wings ofbutterflies and beetles.

"Given favourable light conditions, they display a world ofbrightly patterned wings that are apparently unnoticed bycontemporary biologists," wrote researchers led by University ofLund Ekaterina Shevtsova and Christer Hansson in a 3December Proceedings of the National Academy ofSciences paper.

Wasp and fly wings are made from two compressed layers oftransparent chitin, with light bouncing off both layers and mixingto produce colour. The same is true of oil slicks and soap bubbles,and scientists considered transparent wing coloration "a soapbubble iridescence effect, with randomly changing colours flashingover the wing surface," wrote the researchers.

Instead, the researchers found that surface variations in chitinfiltered out the iridescence. Remaining colours proved to bestable, and were visible from almost any angle. They differedconsistently between species and sex.

Generations of biologists seem to have missed this partlybecause they didn't look for it, and partly because the colours aremost evident against a dark background. Against a white background,they're invisible -- which is exactly how most entomologists studytransparent wings.

"You hold the wing up against the light, so you can see theveins," said study co-author Daniel Janzen, an evolutionaryecologist at the University of Pennsylvania. "If you're lookingthrough a microscope, you try to get a clear view behind the wing.It's the antithesis of getting ."

The researchers studied wings under microscopes, against blackbackgrounds. But once Janzen, who breeds wasps for his research oncaterpillar-parasite symbioses, started to look, colours could beseen by the naked eye as wings passed over insects' blackbodies.

"They flash like little diamonds," he said.

The researchers think the coloration has specific functions,particularly for mating, just as it does in butterflies and beetlesand other insects with better-appreciated markings.

The patterns will also help scientists distinguish betweenspecies difficult to differentiate in other ways. Already theresearchers used transparent wing colours to identify three newspecies of wasp.

According to Janzen, at least a dozen other orders of insects,spanning dragonflies and cockroaches and grasshoppers, havetransparent wings likely to be as colourful as those of wasps andflies.

"I envision taxonomists going back to their animals, and lookingat them in a new light," he said. "It's like discovering a wholenew piece of the animal."


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