“When the wings go up during the upstroke, and they clap together at the end of the upstroke, we saw that they were not just two flat surfaces,” Henningsson explained.
“Instead they were bending, and due to their flexibility, (they were) forming a sort of pocket shape,” he said, adding that the team thought that in doing so, butterflies captured more air between their wings, which improved the clap and boosted performance.
The team tested the theory using a series of triangular robotic clappers and found that flexible wings increased the efficiency of the clap by 28% compared with rigid wings.
Experts think the creatures may have evolved to favor this unusual wing shape in order to evade predators.
“This flexibility might be one of the reasons they have this unusual wing shape,” Henningsson said. “Butterflies take off very quickly. They do this as a safety measure, to minimize risk of getting caught.”
The research was published Wednesday in the journal Interface.
Photos: The monarch butterfly
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