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Naturally occurring fluorescence in transparent insect wings

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Version 2 2023-06-08, 12:49
Version 1 2023-01-12, 14:12
posted on 2023-06-08, 12:49 authored by Sébastien R. Mouchet, Charlotte Verstraete, Bojana Bokic, Dimitrije Mara, Louis Dellieu, Albert G. Orr, Olivier Deparis, Rik Van Deun, Thierry Verbiest, Pete Vukusic, Branko Kolaric
In spite of the crucial role it is believed to play in nature, fluorescence in natural organisms remains under-investigated from optical, chemical and biological perspectives. One example is the transparent wings of insects from the order Hemiptera: fluorescence emission has so far not been reported in any of the 3,000 described species of the superfamily Cicadoidea. The phenomenon has however been investigated in several butterfly and moth species, in which the coloured wing scales are known to embed fluorophores such as papiliochrome II. Photonic structures present in these scales may mediate the associated light emission. Fluorescence has also been described in the vein joints and the membrane of the transparent wings of damselflies and dragonflies. This emission was attributed to the presence of autofluorescent proteins such as resilin that gives rise to low stiffness and high strain in the biological tissues, allowing passive wing deformations. In this article, we characterised the fluorescence emission from the transparent wings of the grey cicada \textit{Cicada orni} (Linnaeus, 1758) and the common cicada \textit{Lyristes (Tibicen) plebejus} (Scopoli, 1763), using linear and nonlinear optical methods. We compared their properties with the fluorescence emission from two other insects exhibiting transparent wings, namely, \textit{Hemaris fuciformis} (Linnaeus, 1758) commonly known as the broad-bordered bee hawk-moth and the Bornean damselfly \textit{Vestalis amabilis} Lieftinck, 1965. These fluorescent behaviours were optically characterised by one- and multi-photon microscopy and spectrometry, allowing us to infer the symmetry of the material as well as the biological role of the fluorophores in the visual perception of insects and to explain the high absorption by the material in the range 300-400~nm.



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