Origin and Evolution of Butterflies

Butterflies are the most popular group of insects. Always admired for their beauty and elegance, they have been collected for centuries, with some collectors being the first to dedicate themselves to their scientific study.

In the class of insects, the order of butterflies ( Lepidoptera ) is one of the most evolved and species-rich groups, with around 165 000 species identified worldwide (about 5,000 in Europe), a number only surpassed by the order of the coleoptera (including known beetles). Lepidopterans are present in the vast majority of natural habitats, with species with adaptations specific to the characteristics of each habitat, the climate being the main factor that determines the area of ​​distribution of butterflies globally. They are only absent in the Arctic, Antarctic and high mountains with perpetual snow and ice.

The main characteristic of lepidopterans is the fact that they have numerous scales that cover the body and wings, giving the latter multiple patterns of coloring. The word Lepidoptera itself literally means “wings with scales”. Another diagnostic characteristic common to the vast majority of insects of this order is the presence of a proboscis, that is, a proboscis of variable length, coiled in a spiral, and whose function is to release the nectar of flowers and the water of dew.

Lepidoptera are commonly and empirically divided into two groups, butterflies and moths. In general, colored butterflies that fly during the day are included in the first group and, in the second group, butterflies with less appealing tones and that fly at night. It is true that in many cases these assumptions are verified; however, there are numerous exceptions, so that this is just a convenience division, without much scientific basis. The antennae of lepidoptera are a diagnostic feature used in their division into two large groups. The vast majority of daytime butterflies, including all European species, have long, filiform antennae, which is why they are called Rhopalocera. Most moths have dentulated or pectinated antennae (more rarely filiform),

 

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