The last time we saw the work of digital artist Eleanor Lutz, she created a lovely infographic of the bioluminescent tree of life. With her latest work, Lutz has really stepped-up her game and made an animated infographic of a few beautiful butterflies in North America:
This delightful image isn’t the whole story of North American butterflies, of course. There are over 700 different species of the insect flitting around the fields of Canada, the US, and Mexico. And while they may seem like one of life’s beautiful distractions, like a plastic bag blowing in the wind, butterflies are a key indicator of the ecological strength of an area — akin to having a healthy bee population. Tens of millions of monarch butterflies, for example, take one of the longest insect migration in the world each year, as they flap their way from the US and Canada and into Mexico. In recent years, this migration has been crumbling. That points to changing environmental conditions such as drought and deforestation, which inform us as to the health of the ecosystem as a whole.
But besides being important contributors, butterflies are downright awesome. When undergoing the metamorphosis from caterpillar to adult butterfly, the creatures actually liquify themselves inside their cocoons and rebuild their bodies into a new form. They drink turtle tears. They taste with their feet. Their scales alter wavelengths of light with nanotechnology! But butterflies are neither butter nor flies, discuss.
Imagine if digital textbooks had graphics like this! Biology 101 would have been far more engaging for me if I could have actually seen the species we learned about. You lose a bit of nature’s wonder when text is all you get.
You can grab a (non-animated, obviously) poster version here.