Exhibition "Love Locks of Butterflies and Moths"

From 14 February the Estonian Museum of Natural History showcases the exhibition „Love Locks of Butterflies and Moths“. The exhibition features microscopic photos of the organs of butterfly and moth species, including photos of their female and male genitals.

While butterflies and moths were earlier identified only by their wing patterns, Estonian scientist Wilhelm Petersen discovered in the late 19th century that externally indistinguishable species can be distinguished by their internal anatomy, or more specifically – their genitals. The new approach fostered the development of butterfly and moth taxonomy. Generalization of the gathered observation results also gave clues about something more in-depth: chemical communication between sexes in butterflies and moths, the anatomy of the body parts involved in it, and its importance in speciation. 

Their mating takes place according to the lock-and-key principle: mating is successful only if the genitals of the female and the male have perfectly matching shapes, like a lock and a key.

The exhibition „Love Locks of Butterflies and Moths“ features 12 microscopic photos of the organs of ten butterfly and moth species, including photos of their female and male genitals, which unlock how entomologists identify species.

The exhibition was compiled by Aare Lindt and Ulla Männi. Our acknowledgements to the printing house ArtPrint.