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November 17, 2014 AT 3:00 pm

How Animals Hacked The Rainbow And Got Stumped On Blue

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NPR has a short piece on the evolution of color in the animal kingdom and how some animals aren’t visually what they seem:

“Blue is fascinating because the vast majority of animals are incapable of making it with pigments,” Prum says.

In fact, of all Earth’s inhabitants with backbones, not one is known to harbor blue pigment. Even some of the most brilliantly blue things in nature — a peacock feather, or a blue eye, for example — don’t contain a single speck of blue pigment. So, how can they look so blue?

“They have evolved a new kind of optical technology, if you will, to create this color,” Prum explains — it’s a trick of structure.

Blue morpho butterflies are great examples. Biologist Dan Babbitt keeps some at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History’s insect zoo.

Read more.


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