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The colors of a butterfly's wings are caused by tiny scales. Do they all produce colors in the same way?

Answer:

There are several different methods that butterfly scales use to produce color. Some, mostly yellows, reds, oranges, and browns are produced by pigments. Blues and greens are usually produced by complex structures in the scales that break up the light.

For other scales, it is a mixture of both, with pigments absorbing some colors, and scale structures altering the reflected light by diffraction and/or interference.

Even better, there are many other butterfly colors that we still don't know exactly how they are formed. Only recently have scientists begun to dig deeply into the mysteries of butterfly scales, and there is still much to learn.

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