The Unusual Origin of Peacock Brown

June 28, 2005

Many animals' colors originate from photonic crystals, which reflect specific colors of light as a result of their nanoscopic structures, rather than from pigments, which derive their colors from their chemical composition. The brown in peacocks' tails is a particularly unusual type of photonic crystal coloration, according to research soon to appear in the journal Physical Review E.

Brown is a mixture of light of different colors. Generally, photonic crystals in animal coloring produce pure colors, such as blue, green, yellow or violet. Nevertheless, researchers at Fudan University in Shanghai have found that the brown in peacocks' feathers is indeed due to microscopic structure. The researchers' experiments and analysis show that peacocks' brown microstructures are a good deal more complex than most natural photonic crystals.

Mimicking the photonic crystals in peacock tail feathers could lead to new ways to manipulate light in cutting edge optical instruments. In addition, the discovery points the way to new paints and coatings that are not susceptible to the chemical changes that can degrade pigments over time.

Publication: Y. Li et al., Physical Review E, Forthcoming article

Source: American Physical Society

Explore further: A marine creature's magic trick explained

Related Stories

A marine creature's magic trick explained

September 2, 2015

Tiny ocean creatures known as sea sapphires perform a sort of magic trick as they swim: One second they appear in splendid iridescent shades of blue, purple or green, and the next they may turn invisible (at least the blue ...

The resplendent inflexibility of the rainbow

August 4, 2015

Children often ask simple questions that make you wonder if you really understand your subject. An young acquaintance of mine named Collin wondered why the colors of the rainbow were always in the same order—red, orange, ...

Recommended for you

New nanomaterial maintains conductivity in 3-D

September 4, 2015

An international team of scientists has developed what may be the first one-step process for making seamless carbon-based nanomaterials that possess superior thermal, electrical and mechanical properties in three dimensions.

Secrets of a heat-loving microbe unlocked

September 4, 2015

Scientists studying how a heat-loving microbe transfers its DNA from one generation to the next say it could further our understanding of an extraordinary superbug.

Plants also suffer from stress

September 4, 2015

High salt in soil dramatically stresses plant biology and reduces the growth and yield of crops. Now researchers have found specific proteins that allow plants to grow better under salt stress, and may help breed future generations ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.