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Physiological Colour Change in the Hercules Beetle


THE Hercules beetle, Dynastes Hercules L., can change the colour of its elytra—horny fore-wings—from black to greenish yellow and back again to black all within a few minutes. It does this in a way previously unknown among insects. Apart from the reversible migrations of pigment granules in the iris cells, physiological or rapidly reversible colour changes are very rare in insects1–4. Among beetles, Coptocyclia5, Aspidomorpha, and many other Cassidinae can change the colour of their elytra by varying the amount of water in the cuticle and thereby the thickness of the thin films responsible for the interference colours.

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HINTON, H., JARMAN, G. Physiological Colour Change in the Hercules Beetle. Nature 238, 160–161 (1972).

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