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扑朔迷离的昆虫翼颜色新天地

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仔细观察下,貌似弱不禁风而透明的昆虫翼显示了之前未得赏识的颜色境界;这可是肉眼可见但却视若无睹,被忽视了数世纪。

迄今,许多苍蝇和黄蜂翼的颜色被视为胡乱的彩虹色,其实,它们的奇特而不可思议的翅膀颜色,可媲美获广泛研究以及颇驰名的蝴蝶和甲虫翅膀颜色。

在《美国国家科学院12月3日议程》论文中,由瑞典隆德大学的艾克特里纳.舍硕瓦和克里斯特.韩逊二人带领的研究员写道,“在有利条件下,它们显示一个图案鲜明的翅膀天地,当代生物学家显然与之擦肩而过。”

黄蜂和苍蝇的翅膀由两层压缩的透明甲壳质构成,光线从上面反射而混合成颜色。研究员写道,就像水面浮油和肥皂形成泡沫。科学家认为,透明翅膀的着色“乃肥皂泡沫彩虹色效果,随意改变的颜色在翅膀表面上闪烁。”

不过,研究员发现,甲壳质的表面变化把彩虹色过滤掉。剩下的颜色证明是稳定的,几乎可从任何角度看到,但却因物种和性别的差异而大不相同。

因为没有去寻找或是那颜色在黑暗背景下最明显,世代生物学家似乎与之擦肩而过。背景若是白的,它们就无法看到 – 那正是 昆虫学家如何研究透明翅膀。

美国宾夕法尼亚大学进化生态学者兼研究合著者丹尼尔.简森说,“你拿翅膀对着光就能看到叶脉。你若放在显微镜下,可试图看清翼后状况。那是获取翅膀颜色的对照法。”

研究员对着黑色背景在显微镜下研究翅膀。然而,当简森开始一看时,翅膀在昆虫黑体上移动时,其颜色可被肉眼见到。

“它们像小钻石般闪亮,”他说。

研究员认为,翼着色有特殊功能,尤其是交配功能,类似蝴蝶、甲虫及其他拥有较受赏识花纹的昆虫。

有关图案亦有助于科学家去分辨难以区别的物种。研究员已使用透明翼颜色去鉴定三种新黄蜂。

简森认为,至少还有一打别种昆虫(包括蜻蜓、蟑螂及草蜢),其透明翅膀会与黄蜂和苍蝇的一样五彩缤纷。

他说,“我预想分类学家将返回他们的动物去用另一种观点看待,像是发现全新的一批动物。”

译文: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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