Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Bottoms Up?

Painted Lady - Dorsal View
Painted Lady - Ventral View 

I get very confused with ventral and dorsal when it comes to butterflies.  Generally speaking, dorsal is in the back, like the spinal column, and ventral is in the front, like the navel.  Dolphins have dorsal fins.  It all seems simple, but butterflies are routinely described as “Dorsal (Topside or Backside) View” and “Ventral (Bottom or Underside) View.”  I think this is because butterflies land with their wings closed, so what we usually see is the Ventral or Underside view.  In fact, one difference between most moths and most butterflies is that moths land with their wings open and butterflies with their wings closed.  For many butterflies, like the Monarch, the closed wings, the ventral view, looks similar to the dorsal view, but not for all.  The Eastern comma, (post below) for example, has two very different appearances on both sides of its wings.  The Painted Lady (pictured here), the Question Mark, and the Variegated Fritillary are butterflies that look different on the topside or backside--the dorsal side, and on the bottom or underside--the ventral side.  So when it comes to what we call the beauty of butterflies, I guess it's "Bottoms up." 

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