A butterfly relies on the sun’s warmth to heat up its flight muscles before it can flutter off. But on cloudy days the cabbage white butterfly takes flight before other butterflies. What gives it the advantage?
Consider: Before getting airborne, many varieties of butterflies bask in the sun with their wings closed or spread out horizontally. However, the cabbage white butterfly poses in a V-shape. Research has shown that in order to achieve optimal heating, the butterfly needs to hold each wing at an angle of approximately 17 degrees from closed. This posture concentrates solar energy directly onto its flight muscles in the thorax, warming them up for takeoff.
Researchers from the University of Exeter, England, investigated whether they could make solar panels more effective by replicating the butterfly’s V-shaped pose. On doing so, they found that the amount of power produced increased by almost 50 percent.
The researchers also noticed that the surface of the butterfly’s wing is highly reflective. By imitating the V-shaped pose and the reflective wing structure, the researchers produced lighter and more efficient solar panels. These results led Professor Richard ffrench-Constant, a member of the research team, to call the cabbage white butterfly “an expert at harvesting solar energy.”
What do you think? Is the cabbage white butterfly’s V-shaped pose the product of evolution? Or was it designed?