Thursday, 14 March 2013

X-ray scans look at changes inside a chrysalis

By Ella Davies, Reporter, BBC Nature

Scientists have recorded the intimate changes involved when a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly.

Researchers used micro-CT scans to look inside a chrysalis during the process of metamorphosis.

A series of images revealed how the caterpillar's breathing tubes altered to become the intricate respiratory system of a butterfly.

The assembled footage features in the BBC Four documentary Metamorphosis: The Science of Change.

"We use this 3D imaging technology in archaeology to analyse the internal structure of objects such as bones and pottery, but it works just as well for small bodies with complex internal anatomy like a chrysalis," said archaeologist Professor Kate Robson Brown, from the University of Bristol, who was part of the team that undertook the study.

The researchers scanned three stages in the life cycle of the blue morphos (Morpho menelaus) butterfly: a caterpillar one day before metamorphosis, a week-old chrysalis and a chrysalis one day before the butterfly emerged from within.

They used micro-CT (computerised tomography) technology, firing x-rays at the insects to generate a computer image of their insides.

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