Evolutionary wonders

A rare half-male, half-female butterfly — and other photos of evolutionary wonders

Writer May-Ying Lam

Photos By Robert Clark.

The genetic mutations leading to gynandromorphy — the possession of male and female sexual characteristics by a single individual — occur throughout nature, appearing in crustaceans, birds and other animals. It is especially noticeable in butterflies (such as this birdwing, Trogonoptera trojana), because many butterfly species already show sexual dimorphism — visible differences between male and female. This birdwing shows one bright “male” wing and one duller “female.” Recently, a gynandromorphic great Mormon butterfly made headlines after emerging from a chrysalis during a 2011 butterfly show at the Natural History Museum in London. (Robert Clark/Courtesy of Phaidon)

When Charles Darwin examined an orchid from Madagascar with a nearly foot-long nectary, he was certain that a corresponding moth, one with an exceptionally long proboscis must exist. More than two decades after Darwin died, a moth matching this specification was identified. And more than 80 years after that, it was further confirmed: The Xanthopan morganii was documented feeding on this exact flower.  Read more.