Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Counterman, Brian A.

Committee Member

Gordon, Donna M.

Committee Member

Range, Ryan C.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Graduate Thesis - Open Access


Biological Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Biological Sciences


Butterfly wing color patterns are produced by the placement of monochromatic scales that have specific colors due to pigmentation, nanostructures, or a combination of both. Structural coloration results from the interference of light from the architecture of the nanostructures. Structural coloration in butterfly scales has been studied optically, but little is known about the mechanisms used to create these scales compared to scales without structural coloration. Light, scanning, and transmission electron microscopy were used to determine underlying morphological, pigmentation, and developmental differences between blue (i.e., structural) and black (i.e., nonstructural) wing scales of Vanessa cardui. Differences in scale size, pigmentation, nanostructure spacing, and cuticle deposition were identified as contributors to structural coloration in mature scales. Differences in cuticle deposition, trabeculae formation, and longitudinal ridge spacing were identified during development. Differences in cuticle deposition during scale development were implicated as an influential factor for the production of structural coloration.