In this lab, scientists study the fine structure of butterflies, including butterfly chromosomes with several of the highest quality light microscopes. These studies may involve physical morphology of the genitalia, wing venation, antennae and other anatomical features, in addition to microscopic elements such as chromosomes.
Butterfly chromosomes are rare because they can break at any point along their length and rejoin without fatal consequences to offspring. This fission and fusion allows frequent recombination of genes or small groups of genes (known as "jumping genes") and promotes rapid evolutionary adjustments to changing environmental conditions. The resulting genetic variation prepares organisms for environmental changes that might affect their survival.