Mechanisms of structural colour in the Morpho butterfly: cooperation of regularity and irregularity in an iridescent scale

Shuichi Kinoshita, Shinya Yoshioka, Kenji Kawagoe

Abstract

Structural colour in the Morpho butterfly originates from submicron structure within a scale and, for over a century, its colour and reflectivity have been explained as interference of light due to the multilayer of cuticle and air. However, this model fails to explain the extraordinarily uniform colour of the wing with respect to the observation direction. We have performed microscopic, optical and theoretical investigations, and have found that the separate lamellar structure with irregular heights is extremely important. Using a simple model, we have shown that the combined action of interference and diffraction is essential for the structural colour of the Morpho butterfly.