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Solving The Mystery Of The Metallic Sheen Of Fish

Date:
January 17, 2008
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
The bright, metallic sheen of fish skin -- source of endless fascination for fishermen and aquarium owners -- is due to a sophisticated system of crystals that enhance light reflection and may help fish hide from predators in the wild, scientists are reporting.
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The bright, metallic sheen of fish skin is due to a sophisticated system of crystals, Israeli scientists report.
Credit: Courtesy of Florida Keys NMS; Photo by Bob Care

The bright, metallic sheen of fish skin -- source of endless fascination for fishermen and aquarium owners -- is due to a sophisticated system of crystals that enhance light reflection and may help fish hide from predators in the wild, scientists in Israel are reporting.

In the new study, Lia Addadi and colleagues note that researchers have known for years that guanine crystals in the skin underneath the scales of fish reflect light to produce a mirror-like sheen.

This silvery reflectance acts as a form of camouflage that helps protect fish from predators as fish swim near the water's surface. However, the exact shape of these guanine crystals and how they work remained a mystery.

The researchers extracted guanine crystals from the skin of the Japanese Koi fish and analyzed the crystals using X-ray diffraction and an electron microscope. They compared the results to guanine crystals made in the laboratory.

The researchers found that the biogenic crystals develop in an unexpected direction that differs from the lab-made crystals and that their unique shape improves light reflectivity. The arrangement represents a "strategy evolved by fish to produce more efficient photonic crystals," the article states.

The study "Biogenic Guanine Crystals from the Skin of Fish May Be Designed to Enhance Light Reflectance" is scheduled for publication in ACS' Crystal Growth & Design.


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American Chemical Society. "Solving The Mystery Of The Metallic Sheen Of Fish." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 January 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080114100008.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2008, January 17). Solving The Mystery Of The Metallic Sheen Of Fish. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 4, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080114100008.htm
American Chemical Society. "Solving The Mystery Of The Metallic Sheen Of Fish." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080114100008.htm (accessed July 4, 2015).

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