If you were to find an incredibly rare and quite striking looking butterfly, what would be your first reaction? What would you do?
Appreciate the experience perhaps? Wonder about the turns of fate that led you there? Committed the experience to memory? Or… kill it, preserve it, and put it on display in a museum perhaps?
Well, if you were of the “scientific” persuasion then I suppose that I do know what you’d do — you’d kill it, preserve it in toxic chemicals, and put it on display in a museum.
And that’s exactly what happened recently when a super-rare half-female, half-male butterfly was noticed by a worker at Drexel University (working on the Butterflies! exhibit) during his time spent working with some pupa from a butterfly farm in Malaysia. The butterfly had only just recently emerged from its chrysalis when the worker noticed the striking-looking animal.
Here it is in his words: “The wings were so dramatically different, it was immediately apparent what it was. I thought: ‘Somebody’s fooling with me. It’s just too perfect.”
And, sure enough, this recognition led directly to the butterfly’s immediate end.
Now you may be thinking, well, why? But if people don’t have to freedom to look at weird, dead, rare butterflies in a museum for no reason than what do they have the freedom to do? Where will the line be drawn if this freedom is taken away??!¡¿??!¡
Anyways… back to the butterfly. If you’re wondering about the exact condition that led to the interesting appearance, it’s referred to by those in the scientific fields as bilateral gynandromorphy. It’s most observable in animals where the males and females have very different colouring (birds, butterflies, etc), but the condition exists in many other animals as well. For that matter, there have been a number of Olympic athletes that have competed as women in the past that have been found to have an unfair advantage owing to conditions such as this.
Its’s simply a matter of a “disjunction of sex chromosomes” — the exact prevalence of the condition is currently unknown, but it is thought to be very rare.
The butterfly in question is of the Lexias pardalis species — commonly known as “brush-footed butterflies”.
Those with twisted value systems will be able to see the butterfly in question in person, if the wish, by heading to the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University starting on January 17th, for a limited time.
I guess it’s a good thing that the animal that unicorn legends originate from (elasmotherium) is no longer alive, or that now magical-seeming animal would have suffered the same fate I suppose? A fate involving being killed, having your body pumped full of preservation chemicals, and put on display for monkeys to gawk at.
To be fair though, the same fate has befallen many of our ancestors as well, owing to the now common practice in the field of archeology of grave-robbing in the name of science — or, probably more accurately, in the name of money.
Image Credit: JD Weintraub/ANSP Entomology