Academic journal article Science Scope

Chameleons Reorganize Nanocrystals to Change Colors

Academic journal article Science Scope

Chameleons Reorganize Nanocrystals to Change Colors

Article excerpt

Many chameleons have the remarkable ability to exhibit complex and rapid color changes during social interactions. A new study unveils the mechanisms that regulate this phenomenon, demonstrating that the changes take place via the active tuning of a nanocrystal lattice present in a superficial layer of dermal cells called iridophores. The study's researchers also reveal the existence of deeper iridophores with larger and less ordered crystals that reflect infrared light. Inside iridophores, these nanocrystals are arranged in layers that alternate with cytoplasm. This structure allows a selective reflection of certain wavelengths, which contributes to the vivid colors of numerous reptiles. The organization of iridophores into two superimposed layers constitutes an evolutionary novelty and allows the chameleons to rapidly shift between efficient camouflage and spectacular display, while providing passive thermal protection.

Male chameleons are popular for their ability to change their color depending on their behavior. Some species, such as the panther chameleon, are able to carry out such changes within one or two minutes to court a female or face a competing male.

"We discovered that the [panther chameleon] changes its colors via the active tuning of a lattice of nanocrystals. …

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