Archive for the ‘ nature ’ Category

in living colour!

Ever wondered why some creatures are so colourful? –Just think of the range of colour from birds’ feathers to butterfly wings to snake skin, insects and amazing underwater life!

I was reminded of last year’s visit to Harvard’s Natural History Museum exhibit on Colour in Genetics, when I discovered these great photos of nudibranchs in National Geographic. These cute little guys are actually sea slugs! –Their colours are incredible, but they’re also incredibly toxic!  (Pretty cute though, huh?)

I pulled out my Moleskine and reviewed my notes from the exhibit, and thought I’d share my insights with you ….

on WARNING COLOURS:

Reds, oranges and yellows that appear in sharp contrast, against black or white in an organism that lives in an otherwise neutral environment, sends the message, loud and clear: STAY AWAY! to potential predators. This natural phenomena is called aposematism. Basically, it’s when toxic, dangerous, or bad-tasting animals use bright colours to avert their prey.

But Mother Nature is sometimes tricky! Some creatures have these colours, but are not dangerous at all! –They cleverly fool their predators into thinking they are, by mimicking the coloration of dangerous living organisms, like many butterflies in the Amazon.

on CHANGING COLOUR:

Some birds and mammals change colour by shedding their feathers or fur with the changing seasons. But many fish, amphibians and reptiles can change colour much more quickly, by adapting pigmentation in living skin cells, called chromatophores. In fact, chameleons don’t change colour to camouflage themselves, like most people think! Scientists have proven that chameleons actually communicate emotions like interest, excitement, anger or fear, when changing colour!

–However, this clever chameleon might have you think otherwise! (With a little video editing help from the author! )

But cephalopods, like octopus, cuttlefish and squid are the true masters of  colour shifting! Cuttlefish signal rivals and mates with wave after wave of colour shifting. Even more amazingly, octopus can replicate background, colour and texture so perfectly that they appear to disappear with the blink of an eye! Take a peek for yourselves … No video editing here, folks! –Enjoy!

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