The amazing biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest guarantees sights of strange and beautiful creatures like the Morpho butterfly every time you go for a hike. You can walk along the same trail every day for a week and see different birds, insects, and animals every single time. This is the general rule because although there are hundreds of species of plants and animals, each individual species tends to be naturally rare. Another reason why you keep seeing different animals in the same area is due to their camouflage. That large tree frog seen on Tuesday was just overlooked on Monday, thousands of katydids blend into the surrounding vegetation, and that White-fronted Nunbird or Broad-billed Motmot was only seen because it decided to fly from one perch to another.
There are hundreds of camouflaged creatures in the rainforest but there are also quite a few birds and insects with stunningly beautiful colors. The deep red belly of the Black-tailed Trogon shouts for attention, the Paradise Tanager seems to sport every color in the rainbow, and many butterflies look like flying jewels. One type of butterfly in particular never fails to capture the attention of anyone who sees it. Blending camouflage with beauty, big Morpho butterflies look like bright flashes of blue as they lazily flutter through the lower levels of the forest.
There are around 80 species of Morpho butterflies that brighten tropical habitats from Mexico south to Paraguay. Several species occur in the rainforests of Tambopata and you can’t miss them when they are flying around. Resembling surreal flashes of blue light as they flap along a stream or forest gap, you may think that you saw a bird or just imagined the experience.
Some interesting facts about Morpho butterflies:
- Named for Venus and Aphrodite: Although “Morpho” means “changed” or “modified”, it also stands for these classic deities of love and beauty.
- Iridescent wings: The shining blue coloration on the wings of Morpho butterflies is caused by iridescence as opposed to pigmentation. In other words, the structure of the minute scales on their wings deflects light in such a way that they often appear to be bright blue.
- Studied to fight counterfeiters: The ability of Morpho butterfly wings to show colors that look almost holographic in nature have made them the subject of studies aimed at preventing counterfeiting.
- Camouflage on the underwings: Although the upper sides of their wings are incredibly colorful, underneath, they show a brown pattern of eye spots and other shapes that blend in with the forest floor. This helps to conceal the butterfly from predators as well as trick birds into biting the “eyes” on the wings as opposed to the actual body of the butterfly.
How to see Morpho butterflies during a Peruvian jungle tour:
- Keep an eye on rotting fruit: Adult Morphos feed on the juices of rotting fruit. If you find some and wait around for a bit, a Morpho will probably turn up. You might even want to leave out a few rotting bananas or plantains in a spot suitable for photography.
- Take a rainforest hike near a stream: Although these gorgeous butterflies can turn up anywhere in the forest, they tend to be more common along streams and treefall gaps.
Take an Amazon jungle tour with Rainforest Expeditions to see the blue flashes of Morpho butterflies in the Peruvian jungle.