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A New Understanding of How Animals Produce Structural Colours

22 October 2014

“All that glitters is not gold” - William Shakespeare - The Merchant of Venice A new paper from the Visual Ecology Group has discovered that there is a universal explanation for why many animals appear a dazzling metallic colour or a mirror like silver.

We see brilliantly coloured animals everywhere: from jewel-like gold beetles, to fish that appear as streaks of silver. Metal-like they may seem, but animals cannot make metal films. Instead, they arrange layers of transparent tissues of variable thicknesses to create iridescent colours and silvery mirror-like reflections. Thomas Jordan, Julian Partridge and Nicholas Roberts have shown how a ubiquitous physical phenomenon, Anderson localization, provides a general framework for understanding many of the iridescent coloured and silvery reflections we see in the natural world. The work has been published in the Royal Society journal Interface.

Further information

Jordan TM, Partridge JC, Roberts NW. 2014 Disordered animal multilayer reflectors and the localization of light. J. R. Soc. Interface 11: 20140948.

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