Ehrlich, Paul R. Center for Conservation Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, California.
Vane-Wright, Richard I. Biogeography and Conservation Laboratory, Department of Entomology, The Natural History Museum, London, United Kingdom.
Last reviewed:October 2019
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- Anatomy and morphology
- Developmental stages
- Biological aspects
- Ecology and distribution
- Behavior and physiology
- Evolution and genetics
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The order of scaly-winged insects, including the butterflies, moths, and skippers. Lepidoptera is one of the largest taxonomic orders in the class Insecta and includes approximately 180,000 known species divided among more than 125 families. Adult lepidopterans have a covering of hairs and flattened setae (scales) on the wings, legs, and body, and are often beautifully colored (Fig. 1). With minor exceptions, the adults are also characterized by two pairs of membranous wings, as well as possessing sucking mouthparts that feature a prominent coiled proboscis. This feeding apparatus is formed from a pair of specially elongated and grooved lobes (the galeae) that are closely joined along their length to make a flexible tube. Adults having a proboscis can take only liquid food, such as nectar and juices of fruits. Butterflies and skippers usually fly in the daytime, whereas most moths are nocturnal. The caterpillars are almost always herbivorous and chew their food like a grasshopper or beetle. See also: Insect physiology; Insecta; Protective coloration
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