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Air temperature drives the evolution of mid-infrared optical properties of butterfly wings


This study uncovers a correlation between the mid-infrared emissivity of butterfly wings and the average air temperature of their habitats across the world. Butterflies from cooler climates have a lower mid-infrared emissivity, which limits heat losses to surroundings, and butterflies from warmer climates have a higher mid-infrared emissivity, which enhances radiative cooling. The mid-infrared emissivity showed no correlation with other investigated climatic factors. Phylogenetic independent contrasts analysis indicates the microstructures of butterfly wings may have evolved in part to regulate mid-infrared emissivity as an adaptation to climate, rather than as phylogenetic inertia. Our findings offer new insights into the role of microstructures in thermoregulation and suggest both evolutionary and physical constraints to butterflies' abilities to adapt to climate change.

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