New research shows an extremely rare specimen of a butterfly doesn’t know what it wants because it features both genders on each side of its body, making it half male, half female.
The Common Archduke Butterfly (Lexias pardalis) is better known as the “brush-footed” butterfly. Chris Johnson, a volunteer at a butterfly exhibit at Drexel University in California and a retired engineer, first discovered this bizarre feature of the specie.
Johnson found it when he was removing butterflies from the chamber where they first emerge from their chrysalises, or the stage during which it turns into an adult. The butterfly then revealed its characteristics by spreading the wings, which showed its two genders.
Its two right wings were of female of its species — large and brown with yellow and white spots. Meanwhile, its two left wings sported a darker green, blue and purple coloring, a pattern archetypal of males.
“It just gave me goosebumps, it was a total surprise, something I never expected to see,” Johnson said.
This extreme condition is called bilateral gynandromorphy. It happens when there’s a problem during cell division when an insect forms after an egg is fertilized, resulting in female chromosomes in one daughter cell and male in the other.
This condition is commonly seen in butterflies and birds, whose sexes have very different colorations. They have different marking and color patterns for males and females.
Lepidopterist and entomology collection manager Jason Weintraub of the university said it’s the first butterfly gynandromorph he’s seen there.
“It’s exciting to see because you read about it, and you see specimens in collections, but when you actually see one alive in front of your eyes, it’s kind of spectacular,” Weintraub added.
The strange butterfly came to the academy in a shipment of pupae from a butterfly farm in Malaysia. It was killed and preserved for research for fear the insect could be damaged during its short life in the live butterfly exhibit.
Currently, the preserved and pinned half-and-half butterfly will be on display at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University for visitors to see from January 17 through February 16.