Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The 4 legged butterfly

This morning, I knew that this butterfly would be emerging soon. I just didn't realize how soon. I had things to do, and didn't want to sit for an hour or however long it would take, and wait and watch the transparent chrysalis in my back yard. I gave it a good long stare, to see if it was wiggling or anything. It wasn't. I decided to come back and check it every half hour or so.

The next time I went out there, I was already too late. The butterfly was still there, down in the ivy at the base of the fence. I picked it up and let it rest on the outside of a small screened container.

I noticed that this butterfly had only 4 legs. Insects are supposed to have six legs. It didn't appear to have been pecked at by birds, or eaten by ants. The legs were just missing.

Or were they?

I looked at other pictures of Monarch Butterfllies. They all had only 4 legs. I can't believe I've never noticed this before! So I looked it up, and it turns out that they actually do have six legs, but the "missing" pair is small, tucked up in front, and you don't really see them. And that's not all. All butterflies in the Nymphalidae family, also called Brush-footed butterflies, have 2 undersized front legs.

It was hard to get a good picture of the 2 small legs, especially since they're black and so is the body. But I have the arrows pointing to them.

I looked back at some other butterfly pictures I've taken, and there's a good shot of the front legs in the first picture of this post about a Buckeye butterfly.
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