Rare dual-sex butterfly hatches at museum

(Image: Kevin Webb/NHM Image Resources)
Nature fuses one half of a male and one half of a female butterfly in this unusual specimen from the Natural History Museum in London. Known as a gynandromorph, this great mormon butterfly (Papilio memnon) sports the longer antennae and darker colouration characteristic of males on the left side with the lighter tortoiseshell pattern of females on the right. The insect hatched two weeks ago at the Sensational Butterflies exhibit, which runs through 11 September.

Insects and some crustaceans can exhibit dual-sex characteristics if the sex chromosomes do not segregate properly as the fertilised egg divides. If this error occurs during the first cell division, it creates a perfect bilateral split with sex traits on each side.
According to Luke Brown, the butterfly house manager, this pure bilateral gynandromorph is a rare find. "Many permanent butterfly exhibitions will go through their entire existence without ever seeing one of these rarities," he said. Those who wish to see the butterfly should visit soon: it has a fleeting one-month lifespan.
Brown didn't speculate as to the sexual preferences of the animal.

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