Elytra is the plural of elytron, a word that refers to the hardened forewings of some insects, such as beetles, which cover the transparent hindwings, which are the ones used for flying. In the sculpture above the elytra are striped green and orange.
Why is it an awesome word? Just is. Beetle wings are awesome. And elytra sounds utterly mystical. I didn’t know they were forewings. I didn’t know they were wings at all. If you’d asked me what that bit of the beetle was, I would have said “carapace” or “shell”. I only encountered the word for the first time today in this article about a new art pavilion being built at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Robots are weaving a moving canopy for the Elytra Pavilion, based on the “fibrous structures found in the hardened forewings of flying beetles”.
Speaking of art and elytra, check out the incredibly beautiful and just plain cool sculptures from artist Mike Libby. I’ve seen his steampunked insects around on Pinterest for a while now, but the crab “Ludlow” is… well… I mean he has interchangeable claws. Holy hell. I’m itching from wanting.