Tropical Butterflies in the World's Tropical Rainforests

If you are sufficient enough to visit a rainforest you will no doubt be eager to look at the birds and animals within. Yet, for many visitors, although they can hear the sounds of the wildlife, seeing it is another thing. Some of the rainforest`s animals are nocturnal, and the birds are in the canopy of the forest.

One creature you are likely to see, though, is the tropical butterfly.

Butterflies are important rainforest insects. They feed on nectar, and are important because they pollinate flowers.

Tropical butterflies are often larger than those you may see in your garden, and many boast beautiful colors. The green of the forest is an ideal backdrop for the brilliant blue, red, and yellow butterflies that flit about in the clearings. Apart from these traditional colors, in South America you may also see butterflies with transparent wings. Not all butterflies are colorful, some are camouflaged to leave leaves, or the bark of trees.

Tropical rainforests are the most diverse ecosystems on earth. The number of different butterfly species inhabiting the rain forest is amazing. An eight-square kilometer area of ​​rainforest contains as many as 1500 species of flowering plants, 750 species of trees, 125 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, 100 species of reptiles, 60 species of amphibians, and 150 species of butterflies. More than half of the world's plant and animal species inhabit the 6 percent of the world that is covered in rainforest.

Although a butterfly's wing may exhibit a full range of colors, these hues generally do not depend on many different pigments. The wing compacts a transparent membrane on which thousands of tiny scales are attached, and each scale usually has just one pigment. However, scales of different colors combine to give the impression to the observer of yet another color.

In a study by The University of Exeter, UK, research appears in the journal Science. The study concluded that fluorescent patches on the wings of African swallowtail butterflies work in a very similar way to high emission light emitting diodes (LEDs).

Unlike your garden at home, because most flowers bloom high up in the canopy, where they provide nectar for the butterflies, they can not be seen by a visitor on the ground. Fortunately, male butterflies come down to earth for salt. It is thought that the mating process may deple them of necessary minerals, which they replenish by sucking up moisture from wet ground. Thus, a damp forest path or the edge of a small stream may prove the ideal place to observe the butterflies of the rain forest. This partly explains why males institute the vast majority of butterflies clustering around salty ground. Butterflies seek out salt to obtain additional compounds that need to function as adults; the plants they ate when they were caterpillars had low levels of some critical compounds. For example, plant tissues have relatively little salt, which is essential for all animals.

If all you leave with your memories of the beautiful butterfly, your visit to the rainforest will`t have been wasted.