Chameleons have been fascinating scientists for a very long time. Their ability to change colors and patterns based on the environment in which they live is nothing short of amazing. But how do these small reptiles manage to change from red to green and from blue to yellow? Scientists say they finally uncovered the mystery.
Although these creatures are not the only ones with the ability of changing colors, they are one of the best at doing it. And the master is the panther chameleon.
The panther chameleon is known to change its color shades in a matter of minutes. It can turn from green to blue to red and yellow quicker than it can move.
A team of researchers says they know how chameleons change their colors.
According to the scientists who discovered it, chameleons don’t rely on pigments to change their colors, but on special nanocrystals known as iridophores that are located under their skin.
By contracting and expanding, these iridophore crystals reflect different light levels, which give the impression that the colors are changing.
In order to come to this conclusion, the researchers studied a male panther chameleon which lives in Madagascar. According to the scientists, it was pretty difficult to find one since this species of chameleon is a master at camouflaging.
Michel Milinkovitch, an expert in biophysics from the University of Geneva and one of the authors of the study, explained that the panther chameleons are very difficult to find in Madagascar because of their color-shifting abilities.
The researchers used transmission electron microscopy to study the chameleon’s skin and its process of changing colors.
They discovered that the animal has iridosphore nanocrystals on two layers of its skin. According to the researchers, the chameleon has very small guanine nanocrystals that help reflect different layers of light.
Interacting with the xantthopores, which are the yellow pigment cells, will lead to the formation of orange and green shades. Also, these crystals can reflect an infra red-like light which could help the chameleons cool their skin in hot weather conditions.
The details of the new study were published in the journal Nature Communications.
Image Source: redbubble
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