Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bird Feathers Produce Color Through Structure Similar To Beer Foam

Date:
April 5, 2009
Source:
Yale University
Summary:
Some of the brightest colors in nature are created by tiny nanostructures with a structure similar to beer foam or a sponge, according to researchers.

Prum and Dufresne discovered that the nanostructures that produce some birds' brightly colored plumage, such as the blue feathers of the male Eastern Bluebird, have a sponge-like structure.
Credit: Photo by Ken Thomas

Some of the brightest colors in nature are created by tiny nanostructures with a structure similar to beer foam or a sponge, according to Yale University researchers.

Most colors in nature—from the color of our skin to the green of trees—are produced by pigments. But the bright blue feathers found in many birds, such as Bluebirds and Blue Jays, are instead produced by nanostructures. Under an electron microscope, these structures look like sponges with air bubbles.

Now an interdisciplinary team of Yale engineers, physicists and evolutionary biologists has taken a step toward uncovering how these structures form. They compared the nanostructures to examples of materials undergoing phase separation, in which mixtures of different substances become unstable and separate from one another, such as the carbon-dioxide bubbles that form when the top is popped off a bubbly drink. They found that the color-producing structures in feathers appear to self-assemble in much the same manner. Bubbles of water form in a protein-rich soup inside the living cell and are replaced with air as the feather grows.

The research, which appears online in the journal Soft Matter, provides new insight into how organisms use self-assembly to produce color, and has important implications for the role color plays in birds’ plumage, as the color produced depends entirely on the precise size and shape of these nanostructures.

“Many biologists think that plumage color can encode information about quality – basically, that a bluer male is a better mate,” said Richard Prum, chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and one of the paper’s authors. “Such information would have to be encoded in the feather as the bubbles grow. I think our hypothesis that phase separation is involved provides less opportunity for encoding information about quality than most biologists thought. At the same time, it’s exciting to think about other ways birds might be using phase separation.”

Eric Dufresne, lead author of the paper, is also interested in the potential technological applications of the finding. “We have found that nature elegantly self assembles intricate optical structures in bird feathers. We are now mimicking this approach to make a new generation of optical materials in the lab,” said Dufresne, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, chemical engineering and physics.

Prum believes it was the interdisciplinary approach the team took that led to their success – a result he plans on celebrating “with another practical application of phase separation: champagne!”

Other authors of the paper include Heeso Noh, Vinodkumar Saranathan, Simon Mochrie Hui Cao (all of Yale University).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Yale University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Eric R. Dufresne, Heeso Noh, Vinodkumar Saranathan, Simon G. J. Mochrie, Hui Cao and Richard O. Prum. Self-assembly of amorphous biophotonic nanostructures by phase separation. Soft Matter, 2009; DOI: 10.1039/b902775k

Cite This Page:

Yale University. "Bird Feathers Produce Color Through Structure Similar To Beer Foam." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 April 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090403114820.htm>.
Yale University. (2009, April 5). Bird Feathers Produce Color Through Structure Similar To Beer Foam. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090403114820.htm
Yale University. "Bird Feathers Produce Color Through Structure Similar To Beer Foam." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090403114820.htm (accessed August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Hoping to break the record for world's wooliest, Shaun the sheep came up 10 pounds shy with his fleece weighing over 50 pounds after being shorn for the first time in years. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) Canadian scientists looking into the very first land animals took a fish out of water and forced it to walk. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fake Dogs Scare Real Geese from Wis. Park

Fake Dogs Scare Real Geese from Wis. Park

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Parks officials in Stevens Point, Wisconsin had a fowl problem. Canadian Geese were making a mess of a park, so officials enlisted cardboard versions of man's best friend. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins