This butterfly relies on transparency to protect itself

It’s been nicknamed the "little mirror" from the forests of South America. But for this butterfly, this extraordinary appearance is a simple matter of survival. Meet the Greta oto.

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This is the “little mirror” from the forests of South America. For this butterfly, its extraordinary appearance is a simple matter of survival. While most butterflies have patterns on their wings to provide camouflage from predators, the Greta oto relies on transparency.

Also known as the “glasswing butterfly,” it is found throughout an area covering Central and South America. Its wings are between 5.6 and 6.1 cm in size and, with the exception of black veins and reddish brown borders, they appear invisible. This transparency is due to how the wing’s microstructures are arranged, which allows for low absorption and reflection of light, regardless of the angle at which light hits the wings. The light simply goes through them.

But to avoid being preyed upon, the Greta oto has another feature. After consuming nectar from plants that contain toxic alkaloids, it stores those toxins in its body, making itself toxic to predators such as birds. Despite its enchanting appearance, this butterfly is flying poison to its predators.