MAR 11, 2015 11:53 AM PDT

How chameleons really change their color

WRITTEN BY: Jennifer Ellis
Chameleons may not be the only creatures on the planet capable of shade shifting, but they're probably the best at it-panther chameleons in particular. They can go from green and blue hues to yellow and red ones in a matter of minutes, and scientists say they now think they know how. Reporting in Nature Communications, researchers say that instead of relying on pigments, these reptiles also boast nanocrystals called iridophores beneath their skin, which contract or expand to essentially reflect different levels of light. To study this, the researchers observed the male panther chameleon of Madagascar-which isn't easy given how skilled they are at shade shifting. "I assure you: In Madagascar, they are really difficult to spot," study co-author Michel Milinkovitch, a biophysicist at the University of Geneva, tells the Los Angeles Times.

By filming color changes and examining the chameleons' skin using transmission electron microscopy, the scientists were able to see two layers of skin with iridophores. It turns out that tiny guanine nanocrystals boast very specific spacing between each crystal that in turn reflects different layers of light-shorter spacing reflects blue light, longer spacing red. By interacting with yellow pigment cells (xanthophores) in the skin, greens and oranges emerge. What's more, some less-organized crystal spacing may even reflect near-infrared light, helping to cool the chameleons. "We need to continue investigating the chameleons," Milinkovitch adds, "because part of the answers are there and nowhere else."

Source: Newser
About the Author
  • I love all things science and am passionate about bringing science to the public through writing. With an M.S. in Genetics and experience in cancer research, marketing and technical writing, it is a pleasure to share the latest trends and findings in science on LabRoots.
You May Also Like
JUL 31, 2020
Plants & Animals
This Fungus Spreads by Manipulating Male Cicadas into Mimicking Females
JUL 31, 2020
This Fungus Spreads by Manipulating Male Cicadas into Mimicking Females
Researchers from West Virginia University (WVU) recently discovered how a parasitic fungus uses male cicadas to spread i ...
AUG 03, 2020
Plants & Animals
Pollutants, Pathogens and Toxins Found in Shellfish
AUG 03, 2020
Pollutants, Pathogens and Toxins Found in Shellfish
Scientists used cutting edge technologies to assess how pervasive toxic or household chemicals and pathogens like plasti ...
AUG 21, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Growing Cannabis Indoors is Not Eco Friendly
AUG 21, 2020
Growing Cannabis Indoors is Not Eco Friendly
Indoor cannabis cultivation is considered to produce the highest quality cannabis available, but the elephant in the roo ...
SEP 06, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Can we decrease fertilizer needs by modifiying plant proteins?
SEP 06, 2020
Can we decrease fertilizer needs by modifiying plant proteins?
Plants have natural fertilizers built into their physiological structures, reports new research published in the journal ...
OCT 25, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
A Purr-fect Domestic Cat Genome
OCT 25, 2020
A Purr-fect Domestic Cat Genome
There are thought to be more than 94 million cats in the US alone. Researchers have now improved the reference genome se ...
NOV 05, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Researchers describe a new rule for why fish swim in schools
NOV 05, 2020
Researchers describe a new rule for why fish swim in schools
A study published in Nature Communications highlights a new explanation of how fish swim in schools, a technique they us ...
Loading Comments...