MAR 11, 2015 11:53 AM PDT

How chameleons really change their color

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
AUG 21, 2018
Plants & Animals
AUG 21, 2018
2018: An Unlucky Year for Manatees?
Concerned animal conservationists have taken the stage to warn about some somewhat unsettling news in the marine mammal world. As it would seem, there&rsqu...
AUG 28, 2018
Videos
AUG 28, 2018
While You Sleep This Parasitic Bug Could Chew on Your Face
It sounds like a horror movie. At night, while people are peacefully sleeping, a tiny bug crawls over their face, takes a bite, sucks some blood out, and a...
SEP 19, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
SEP 19, 2018
Forensic Efforts To Combat Ivory Poaching
Scientists are using DNA testing to identify poaching hotspots, and criminal networks....
OCT 02, 2018
Plants & Animals
OCT 02, 2018
Despite Popular Belief, Cobra Cannibalism is Somewhat Common
You might’ve heard the expression “dog eat dog,” metaphorically, of course; but how about the one that goes: cobra eat cobra? If not, the...
OCT 03, 2018
Plants & Animals
OCT 03, 2018
These Weird Fish Live in Some of the Deepest Parts of the Ocean
While animal researchers are reasonably well-rounded about the types of species residing at mild depths, we still have a lot to learn about what inhabits t...
NOV 12, 2018
Plants & Animals
NOV 12, 2018
Researchers Link Sunfish Brain Size to Specific Habitats
To most people, a specific fish species would be the same whether it was found at the shoreline or in the middle of the ocean. But according to research pu...
Loading Comments...