Explore the Amazing Abilities of Butterflies from Camouflage to Chemical Weaponry in "Sex, Lies and Butterflies"

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01 April 2018
Nature: Sex, Lies and Butterflies
Photo: Ann Johnson Prum/THIRTEEN Productions LLC
“Nature: Sex, Lies and Butterflies”
Premieres Wednesday, April 4, at 8 PM ET on PBS
(Check your local listings)
          Butterflies have been making our planet more interesting and beautiful for more than 50 million years, and today a dazzling array of nearly 20,000 different species inhabit the globe. Nature: Sex, Lies and Butterflies follows the lives of these incredible and important insects from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to the emergence of the mature winged creature. This vibrant new Nature special explores the astonishing survival techniques of butterflies, including their 360° vision, deceptive camouflage, chemical weaponry, and fantastic flight across continents. Through sophisticated macro-filming, viewers get a rare glimpse beyond the butterflies’ bright colors and fragile beauty as they follow them on one of the greatest migrations on Earth. Narrated by Paul Giamatti. 

          Featured species include Painted Ladies, Eastern tiger swallowtails, Monarchs, Pipevine swallowtails and Adelotypa annulifera. All butterflies share a single, genetic ancestor – a small brown moth that lived more than 50 million years ago. Though the flight pattern of butterflies seems totally random, their oversized wings act like an enormous rudder, enabling them to soar with complete control. The eyes of a Painted Lady butterfly, whose habitat spans Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Africa, contain more than 30,000 lenses.


          Jesse Barber of Boise State University and Akito Kawahara of the Florida Museum of Natural History recently discovered that some moths emit sounds pitched at the same frequencies as bats’ sonar, “jamming” the bats’ method of hunting them. Recorded for only the third time ever, a butterfly pollinates a flower using its wings, instead of its proboscis. Several species of butterfly utilize tricky survival techniques to escape predation, including eating noxious plants, mimicking the spots of other poisonous butterflies, or utilizing camouflage. Scientists reveal the unique relationship that Adelotypa annulifera caterpillars have with multitudes of ferocious ants, who nurture and guard them as they feed on nectar from young bamboo plants. From Africa to Scandinavia and back, Painted Ladies were discovered to have traveled about 9,000 miles roundtrip, completing the longest migration of any insect ever discovered.


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