and other Morph's

Not a scientist? That's OK. I was so fascinated with Gynandromorph but to understand it I had to go back to the basics - Morphology. Let's start with understanding the definition of Morphism and build from this.


Morpho menelaus

Morphism is a suffix meaning the condition of having of specified shape or the state of having a form. Morphe in Greek translates to 'Form'.


Morphology is the study of form and structure of organisms and their specific structural features. This is the gross structure, including internal parts such as organs and outward appearance - the shape, patterns and color. Don't confuse this with Physiology which deals primarily with function.


Morpho helena

Morphism is the quality of having a specific shape or form. Polymorphism is the existence of one or more than one form of morph. The quick definition is differences in butterflies appearances.

Morpho cisseis
Morpho achilles or Blue-banded Morpho

This is very common in nature. For polymorphism the 'morph's' must occupy the same habitat at the same time. Its function is to retain variety of form. This happens with random mating.

These differences can also be due to geographic location or seasonal which is discussed in the paragraphs that follow.

Polymorphism can also be that many species have females in multiple forms, often with mimetic forms. This then becomes directly related to genetic variation and adaptation. The genetic variation is most commonly known as sexual dimorphism.

Female left / Male right

Sexual Dimorphism

Sexual Dimorphism is where males and females within the same species have different colors, shapes and patterns. This is widespread in butterflies.

These differences can be striking and dramatic. Sometimes these patterns can be seen only by butterflies in ultra-violet reflectivity; Otherwise appearing identical to humans.

One example is the female Archduke butterfly overall is black and yellow. The male Archduke is black with bright blue edge on its hind wing.

Another example is shown in the pictures below. These two
butterflies on top row are Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtails.

Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

This picture is the Male Eastern Tiger Butterfly.

Male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail


Greek and broken down is:

gyne = female,

andro = male,

morph = form.

Gynandromorph is a genetic abnormality very distinctive in butterfly species. Both male and female characteristics are found in one butterfly because of faulty cell division creating obvious visual combinations of the two sexes.

Below the first two pictures are a female,
then male Papilio Swallowtail.

Combine the female and male DNA together and you will see a Gynandromorph as pictured below.

Environmental Polymorphism

Geographic Polymorphism

This is where geographic isolation causes a branching off of butterfly species into different morphs. An example of this is the Apollo Butterfly. These butterflies live in small populations and have little contact with each other and therefore unable to breed between populations. It has been recorded that there are over 600 different morphs that have formed.

Seasonal Polymorphism

Seasonal polymorphism can come in a variety of forms. Dry season, Wet season and more. One example of this would be butterflies that live in hemispheres where sun exposure of longer hours creates darker butterflies than their counter-parts that are lighter in color living with fewer hours of sun exposure.

This same darker butterfly can be a result of those familiar with wet-seasoned areas. They show an ability to absorb solar radiation.

It's not thoroughly understood why seasons effect butterflies genetics. It is noted that often times species have females in multiple forms.

Related Articles:

Batesian Mimicry
    Other interesting forms of defense.

     Also known as the male-killer.

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