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Glasswing, the Transparent Butterfly

Updated on July 7, 2014

The transparent Greta oto

Transparency is a very common phenomenon in animals found in the deep sea. On the other hand, transparency in terrestrial animals is quite rare. One such animal is the Glasswing butterfly, which can be found in Mexico, Panama and Venezuela. Individuals have also been sighted in Florida.

The scientific name of this strange but beautiful insect is Greta oto. Other than the "glasswing butterfly" nickname, the animal is also known as "espejitos". This is a spanish word that translates to "little mirrors".

The glasswing butterfly belongs to the Nymphalidae family. All butterflies of this family are known as "brush-footed butterflies."

Glasswing Description
Greta oto butterflies have wings that are almost entirely transparent, except for their borders. Obviously, their transparent wings are the reason behind their common name. The wings have a span of approximately 5.5 to 6.0 centimeters (2.1 to 2.3 inches).

The opaque edges of their wings have a dark-like coloring and in some individuals are colored with red or orange. The body is dark-colored.

It is presumed that the translucent wings allow this insect to better camouflage itself from predators, by allowing whatever background the butterfly has landed on to show through its wings.

Glasswing Butterfly - Notice the transparent wings !
Glasswing Butterfly - Notice the transparent wings !

Feeding & Toxicity

Like most butterflies, the Greta oto feeds from many different flowers, although it apparently has a preference for lantana (Verbenaceae) flowers.

After the mating period, the female usually places her eggs on Cestrum plants. Eggs have never been recorded on other plants and it is believed that the young glasswing caterpillars feed exclusively on this type of vegetation.

I did mention that the adult insect has transparent wings to avoid detection. Caterpillars also have a defense mechanism that protects them against predators. Cestrum plants are poisonous and so are the caterpillars after gorging with them! Any animal eating them will get sick or even die, stopping it from eating any more caterpillars.

It is believed that adult glasswings are also toxic. However, their toxicity doesn't only come from Cestrum plants but from other poisounous plant species as well. Some recorded poisouns plants the nectar of which they drink include certain species of the Asteraceae family. The nectar of these plants contains high concentrations of toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Research suggests that these alkaloids are also used by males for producing pheromones which in turn attract females during the mating period.

Here's a video, showing this cool butterfly in action:

Interesting facts

The species displays a variety of intriguing behaviors, including lengthy and prolonged migrations and lekking among the males.

Useful Links

Related Hubs
If you enjoyed reading about this strange animal, then you may also enjoy reading my ongrowing "world's strangest animals" hub, featuring more than 20 strange and bizarre animals.

Similarly, you may enjoy my "strange sea animals" hub, featuring many weird sea species.


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