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Why Is Blue So Rare In Nature?

May 28, 2021
There are no

blue

tigers There are no

blue

bats, blue squirrels or blue dogs Even blue whales are not so blue Animals come in almost all colors, but blue happens to be the

rare

st. The good thing is that when we find a blue animal, it looks fantastic. Nature does not make halves with blue. To understand why this is so, let's take a journey through evolution, chemistry, and some really interesting physics. But first we need to understand why animals really have a color, and to do that, we need to take a look at butterflies... because butterflies are amazing... and if you don't agree, you're wrong.
why is blue so rare in nature
This is Bob Robbins. He is the Keeper of Lepidoptera at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Butterflies ARE fantastic. Make no mistake. They are a group of moths that have evolved to be active during the day, and if you are active during the day, you have an advantage: you can use light to communicate. You probably already realize this, but of all the insects, butterflies exhibit the most clear, detailed patterns. There's a good reason for this: The colors on butterfly wings send a signal, such as "I'm poisonous" or "I'm a male and this is my territory," but not all butterfly colors are the same if you zoom in.
why is blue so rare in nature

More Interesting Facts About,

why is blue so rare in nature...

If we look very closely at a butterfly's wing, we see that the colors come from tiny scales. In fact, that is what moths and butterflies owe their science to. Orange, red, yellow, brown... these scales contain all the pigments, organic molecules that absorb color, except those we perceive. The black scales absorb all colors. Animals, from butterflies to birds, you and me, do not make these pigments from scratch, they are made from ingredients in our food. You may know this from flamingos: They are born gray, but turn pink thanks to pigments called carotenoids in the crustaceans they eat.
why is blue so rare in nature
So when it comes to colors: you are what you eat. That is not the case with blue. Blue is *different* If you move the camera, you can see the colors change as you move the camera. In fact. It's like a hologram. This is because these butterflies do not have blue pigment. Wait...they're blue, but not really blue? That's how it is! Yes. You lie to me butterflies! :( These are the Blue Morpho butterflies, perhaps the most beautiful butterflies of all. I mean... they did turn them into the butterfly emoji. The blue color does not come from a pigment.
why is blue so rare in nature
The blue color is due to the shape of the wing scale itself, and when I figured out how it worked, it blew my mind. If we zoom in really close to a blue wing scale, we see these little ridges in the shape of very small Christmas trees. The arrangement of the branches is what gives it. to the Morpho the blue color on the wings. As soon as the light enters, it reflects from the top surface of the layer and reflects on the bottom surface, the waves that are reflected from the top will move oppositely and will be reflected. will cancel each other, and then the light will disappear.
But the blue light has the correct wavelength: the reflected light waves are synchronous and we can see that color. This hall of mirrors only lets blue light escape. the base that absorbs red and green light to make the blue more pure. This is how we get this surprising iridescent blue. The microscopic structure of the wing itself. Because light bends in a certain way when it passes from air to another material, all of this happens. So if we fill the small gaps with something other than air, like alcohol, the blue disappears. Technically, "the refractive index changes," but in layman's terms it means that blue light is no longer bent correctly.
The microscopic light filter is broken. Until the alcohol evaporates. And the color returns. But these butterflies live in the rainforest. You would think they would lose their color the moment they got wet, right? Well, just look. The wing scales are made of a naturally water-repellent material. What's up with this blue jay feather? When we look through it, the color disappears completely. No blue pigment. Each "brush" of the pen contains microscopic beads that diffuse light, canceling blue light across a given space. Unlike the highly ordered structures of a butterfly's wings, the structures of feathers are a little more disordered, like foam, so instead of changing as we move, the color remains more consistent from any direction. .
Peacock tail feathers? Again, it's the shape of the pen, not the pigment. But the structures that reflect light are more ordered, like glass, so it is brighter from certain angles. There's even a monkey. Wow, let's make it kid friendly!! -- even that color is created by adding and removing light waves, by the structures of the skin... not by pigment. And yes, even your blue eyes are colored by structures, not pigments. With the exception of the ocean, almost exclusively, the bluest living things make their own colors with microscopic structures, and each one is a little different. No vertebrate, bird, mammal or reptile that we know of produces blue pigment in its body.
In fact, there is only one recognized butterfly that has cracked the code to produce royal blue pigment. Blue as a pigment is incredibly

rare

in

nature

. But, as far as we know, there is one exception, and we call this one "olive wings." They have developed a blue pigment. They are not that common and we don't know much about them, and I don't know of any other blue pigments. That is a very special butterfly. Why is almost all the blue in

nature

made up of structures and not pigments like the rest? I asked some scientists who study colors this question, and this is their best theory yet: At some point, far back in time, birds and butterflies developed the ability to see blue light.
However, they had not yet evolved to paint their bodies that color. But if they could, it would be like going from the early Beatles to Pepper's Sgt. The Beatles would go. It meant there were new possibilities for communication and survival. Creating a kind of blue pigment - from scratch - would mean inventing a new chemistry and it is impossible to add that recipe to your genes. It was much easier for evolution to change the shape of the body at a microscopic level so that physics could create the color blue. They have solved a biological problem with technology.
What I love is that these colors have fascinated curious people for hundreds of years. After observing a peacock feather under a microscope in the 17th century, Robert Hooke wrote, "these colors are fantastic." Even Isaac Newton noticed that there was something strange about all those blues, and scientists studied it from then on. Not only because science is very interesting, but because it is beautiful. Thanks for watching and stay curious.

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