Hermaphrodite Butterfly Hatches in London Museum, Plans To Take Up Acting

By , Columnist

BBC

A small hermaphroditic miracle has occurred at the Natural History Museum in London. In mid-June, a large mixed-sex butterfly hatched at the museum’s annual Sensational Butterflies exhibition and is receiving a great deal of media attention due to its androgynous attributes.

A member of the Great Mormon (Papilio Memnon) species common to South Asia, the gynandromorphy butterfly - “gyn” meaning female and “andro” meaning male - has 50/50 split markings with pale flecks of blue, red, and tortoiseshell on the female side and darker colorings on the male side. Its sexual organs are also half and half, with one antenna being longer than the other with messier tendencies.

The museum houses 4.5 million butterfly specimens, only 200 of which are mixed-sex. Gynandromorphism occurs if the sex chromosomes do not properly separate during initial division of a fertilized egg, or when two sperm fertilize an egg with two sex chromosomes, instead of a single one. Gynandromorphism in lobsters, spiders, and crabs has also been observed, and while it also occurs in the natural world, species with similar markings between males and females are more difficult to spot.

TMR gained access for a brief interview with the butterfly, which likes to be called “Gynny.” When asked how Gynny felt about gaining fame for being mixed-sex, it said, "Baby, I was born this way." Gynny also spoke of feeling completely at puparium in the limelight and plans to take up acting.

The butterfly fluttered at being called the Jamie Lee Curtis of the Lepidopteran world, believing if that were the case then the Sensational Butterflies exhibition should be charging more than £3.50 per adult ticket and £12 for families.

Now middle-aged at three and a half weeks old, Gynny intends to spend the rest of its days mostly playing with itself while still carving out a bit of time to amuse visitors until the exhibition closes September 11.

Butterflies typically have only about a one-month life span, but being the rarity it is, Gynny will remain on display as part of the Museum’s Lepidoptera collection. While lying lifeless in a glass case might seem dull, Gynny believes that in showcasing its ability to entertain without movement, it will be quickly compared to its acting idol Keanu Reeves, and hopes to be cast in the lead role for Matrix 4

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Holly is a freelance writer and copy editor with a background in journalism and publishing. Like a grandmother's purse, she is about three decades old, worn around the edges and mostly full of crap.

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