Continued from Part 1.
Once the caterpillars pupate, the chrysalises are transferred to glass jars where the students can observe their development. This is all part of a citizen science project Conserve School is involved with. I’d seen photos of monarch chrysalises before, but I’d never seen them with my own eyes, and I was astounded by how beautiful they are.
If you look closely at the one on the right (click the photo to enlarge) you can actually see the outline of the developing butterfly’s wing. As I looked at these I really started to wonder about the gold dots – surely they must have some function besides decoration? A quick Google search yielded lots of different theories but the only one that seems to be backed up by research is that they’re associated somehow with the formation and pigmentation of the wing cells. Back in the 1970s someone experimented with removing or destroying the gold dots and seeing how the butterflies turned out, and apparently the development of the cells was affected. Other theories include camouflage and warning coloration, but since camouflage and warning coloration are basically opposite concepts, it’s clear that no one knows for sure.
Monarchs take about ten days to pupate. More to come.