Thursday, 12 March 2015

Crystal amaze: how a chameleon changes colour revealed

Altering the space between tiny crystals allows lizards to reflect a specific wavelength of light and camouflage themselves, study finds

Hannah Devlin, science correspondent

Wednesday 11 March 2015 11.27 GMT

It is one of nature’s most spectacular displays and now scientists have shown how the chameleon changes colour.

A study has found that the lizards possess a layer of skin cells that contain floating nanocrystals. The tiny crystals are roughly evenly spaced throughout the cell and this spacing determines the wavelength of light that the cells reflect.

The latest research shows that chameleons switch colour from green to red by actively changing the spacing between these tiny cellular crystals.

Prof Michel Milinkovitch and his team at the University of Geneva cracked the problem after years of studying the panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis), native to Madagascar, which has one of the most impressive colour displays in the chameleon kingdom.

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