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Inside the vaginas of Butterfly – A second stomach!

by Aadarsh Jain

Inside the vaginas of Butterfly – A second stomach!

May 28, 2021

There are several examples in the animal kingdom that indicate how difficult the dating world can be. But maybe no greater example of this is the female butterfly, which has developed a totally separate organ to safeguard her own interests.

The Bursa Copulatrix

After transforming into a butterfly from a caterpillar, the female Cabbage White butterfly begins her search for a mate. She develops a Hungry Reproductive System, ready to swallow the sperm of the male. She has a special digestive organ designed specifically for this function. It’s so powerful that it could even compete with the caterpillar’s gut, which allowed him to eat in his younger days. The bursa copulatrix is the name for this sperm-hungry organ.

It’s a few mm distant from the vagina in female butterflies and moths. These insects’ sex organs are ridiculously complicated; a diagram of the female anatomy resembles a road plan.

bursa-copultrix-scoolbuzz
Bursa Copulatrix is a few mm distant from the vagina in female butterflies and moths.

The Functioning Of Bursa Copulatrix

Male butterflies, like many other insects, insert their sperm in a spermatophore, which is a little packet in females. Proteins that assist sperm swim faster can be found in this package. Females, on the other hand, have their own methods, such as deactivating those proteins and utilising them to keep their bodies and eggs in good shape. As a result, a butterfly like the cabbage white benefits from mating with a large number of males. It’s ideal if she can recycle as many sperm packets as possible. Males, on the other hand, would prefer she stop herself, giving them a higher chance of fathering some eggs. As a result, the females create spermatophores with thick outer envelopes.

A female can’t reproduce again until the first spermatophore has gone through her system. Sperm swim to their own storage organ within the female butterfly, while the rest of the spermatophore is broken down in the bursa copulatrix. The bursa appears to be digesting this packet in the same way as a genuine stomach would.

female-butterfly-scoolbuzz
A female can't reproduce again until the first spermatophore has gone through her system.

The bursa is an important part of the digestive system. This species’ adult butterflies do not consume any protein, but caterpillars do. Despite this, the bursa is just one-twentieth the size of the protein-digesting portion of the caterpillar stomach. He may have stayed inside his egg if the young caterpillar had known about the complicated ways adult men and females compete with each other—a fight so violent that female butterflies evolved a second stomach for their vaginas.

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