Tiny Crystals Are the Secret to Chameleon Color Change

Mar 17, 2015

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By Mary Beth Griggs

Chameleons are famous for their colors that come and go (oops, did we just get that song stuck in your head?). But how do they actually manage to completely change color in mere minutes?

A new study published in Nature Communications shows that the answer is in a lattice of nanocrystals found just under a chameleon’s skin.


Read the full article by clicking the name of the source located below.

3 comments on “Tiny Crystals Are the Secret to Chameleon Color Change

  • The Popular Science articles seems particularly poorly written|:-

    @ OP link:-

    http://www.popsci.com – Contrary to popular belief, chameleons do not change color to camouflage into the background. Instead, they showcase their colors in mating displays.

    It seems the sensation-seeking author is unable to comprehend the original Nature article!

    http://www.nature.com – In addition, we show that a deeper population of iridophores with larger crystals reflects a substantial proportion of sunlight especially in the near-infrared range. The organization of iridophores into two superposed layers constitutes an evolutionary novelty for chameleons, which allows some species to combine efficient camouflage with spectacular display, while potentially providing passive thermal protection.

    Anyway the discovery that the colour change uses crystals and refraction rather than pigments is a notable discovery.



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  • I wonder how squid and cuttlefish pull this same trick in a fraction of a second.

    Just think Roedy. If they could incorporate this skill into our clothing, you’d only need a summer and winter outfit, and you could dial in whatever look you wanted, or change looks as you change locations, or even as you change company. This from National Geographic.

    Cuttlefish skin has been likened to a color television—it has a way of combining basic colors to form more complex hues and dynamic patterns. “It really is electric skin,” Hanlon said, because it’s all controlled by neurons in the brain that transmit impulses and information to the rest of the body.



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