Intricate Wings Gallery: The Color of Ancient Moths

Fossil Moth

A fossil moth from Messel, Germany

(Image credit: Maria McNamara)

A 47-million-year-old fossil moth from Messel, Germany. The moth is in glycerine, which make its structural colors appear yellow.

Close-up Colors

A fossil moth from Messel, Germany

(Image credit: Maria McNamara)

A 47-million-year-old fossil moth wing looks yellow in glycerine. When the moth was alive, the colors would have appeared yellow-green.

Moth Reconstruction

A reconstruction of a 47-million-year-old moth.

(Image credit: Maria McNamara)

An illustration of what the moth's wing patterns looked like in life.

Fossil Detail

A fossil moth from Messel, Germany

(Image credit: Maria McNamara)

A scanning electron micrograph (SEM image) of the surface of one of the fossil scales showing ridges, microribs, crossribs and perforations

Fossil Moth Scale

A fossil moth from Messel, Germany

(Image credit: Maria McNamara)

Different scale types have different structures. This is an SEM image of a "satin-type" scale.

Fossil Ridges

A fossil moth from Messel, Germany

(Image credit: Maria McNamara)

A scanning electron micrograph (SEM image) of the surface of one of the fossil scales showing microstructures: ridges, microribs and crossribs

Fossil Scales

A fossil moth from Messel, Germany

(Image credit: Maria McNamara)

Complex structures in moth scales create the colors of the insects' wings. This is a transmission electron micrograph (TEM image) of a fossil scale showing curved surfaces in between the ridges.