Reverse color sequence in the diffraction of white light by the wing of the male butterfly Pierella luna (Nymphalidae: Satyrinae)

J.P. Vigneron, P. Simonis, A. Bay, J.-F. Colomer, M. Rassart, A. Aiello, D.M. Windsor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The butterfly Pierella luna (Nymphalidae) shows an intriguing rainbow iridescence effect: the forewings of the male, when illuminated along the axis from the body to the wing tip, decompose a white light beam as a diffraction grating would do. Violet light, however, emerges along a grazing angle, near the wing surface, while the other colors, from blue to red, exit respectively at angles progressively closer to the direction perpendicular to the wing plane. This sequence is the reverse of the usual decomposition of light by a grating with a periodicity parallel to the wing surface. It is shown that this effect is produced by a macroscopic deformation of the entire scale, which curls in such a way that it forms a "vertical" grating, perpendicular to the wing surface, and functions in transmission instead of reflection.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2010


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