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The Butterflies of Paris


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Transcript-The Butterflies of Paris
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Why are butterflies so colorful? That’s what Zed, from The Petit Punk Podcast, wants to know. So we went on a family podcast field trip to the Museum of Natural History in Paris, where we met Zed, his mom Dana, and a butterfly scientist named Marianne Elias. Come with us as we visit the museum’s private “butterfly library,” and find out why some butterflies are toxic! Plus, we’ll learn why Marianne climbs trees when she’s not in her office.


Marianne researches butterflies that are colorful because they're toxic. Here's a clear image of the butterflies she showed us in her office. See how they're similar, but not exactly the same?

Various orange, black, white, and yellowed butterflies

Here's Marianne showing the box of toxic butterflies to Zed (with his questions) and Emmett.

arianne showing the box of toxic butterflies to Zed (with his questions) and Emmett.

Image by Dana Boulé.

There are seventeen separate species in this box! They're not just small, medium, and big versions of the same butterflies. They're different species, like house cats and lions.

You'll notice some have transparent or clear wings, that's another focus of Marianne's research.

More butterflies from the previous picture. These are actual ones behind glass

Image by Lindsay Patterson

Want to know more about dangerous colors in the animal world? The American Museum of Natural History put together this wonderful video about it:


Marianne took us to the Butterfly and Moth Collections at the Paris Museum of Natural History. You won't find it in the public part of the museum, it's just for researchers. In this picture, you can see all the boxes of pinned butterflies, organized like books on a shelf.

Marianne holding a large box of pinned butterflies. The two kids and Lindsay are pictured.

Image by Dana Boulé.

Here, Marianne shows off the big, blue butterflies that confuse and hide from butterflies.

Marianne is showing another box of pinned butterflies.

Image by Dana Boulé.

KQED's Deep Look video series explores how butterflies get their color. In particular, the iridescent Morpho butterfly that Marianne showed us.

Here, Zed tries out catching himself in Marianne's net.

Zed tries out catching himself in Marianne's net.

Image by Dana Boulé.

Marianne sent us these photos of her own children catching butterflies in Peru!

Marianne's son holding a butterfly.

Marianne's son holding a net.

Butterflies are clearly a family obsession. Marianne's husband composed this song about the gliding of butterflies. The transparent butterfly in the image is one they raised themselves!

TUMBLE + THE PETIT PUNK PODCAST! (Marshall not pictured)

Lindsay, Zed, Dana, and Emmet in a group photo

Image by Dana Boulé.

LISTENER CHALLENGE: Think about other (non-butterfly!) animals and insects that are colorful. How might they use their colors to signal to predators, or to attract each other - or is there another reason they might be colorful? And how would you find out if your ideas are right?

Want more Dana & Zed? Listen to their show here.

Dana is a children's musician based in Paris. Enjoy her bilingual English/French songs!

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