Color Changing Mystery Resolved: Scientists Have Figured Out How Chameleons Shift Colors
With the development of science and technology, we have been able to answer those questions which usually remained unanswered or barely answered. Though ‘seekth and you shall findth’ was always true, advancements in science have simply made it more convenient for us to satisfy our appetite to know more.
Remember when you asked your Zoology instructor about the cause behind color changing phenomenon of chameleon? There was hardly a concrete and certain answer for this inquiry regarding one of the enigmatic yet fascinating characteristic of lizards we know as chameleon.
Finally the answer for chameleon’s color changing has been discovered, thanks to the scientists from the University of Geneva who, during their research, observed that the chameleon can vary the form of nanocrystals present in their skin. Thus, this variation in the structure of their nanocrystals result in variance of their color.
Nanocrystals are contained by the layer of cells called iridophores. These are made up of guanine, which is also the component of DNA.
These nanocrystals are almost uniformly distributed in the cellular matrix under a thin layer of skin. These crystals are capable to reflect light at different wavelengths, so the chameleon acquires wealth of changing colors by varying the spacing between crystals, which ultimately result in changing wavelengths.
The revelation about the camouflaging phenomenon has been made by Prof Michel Milinkovitch and his team after years of research. The team studied the panther chameleon, which is one of the most marvelous color displayer in the chameleon family.
According to the research, published in the journal Nature Communications, chameleons display different colors when they are calm and agitated. When they are agitated, the aggression or excitement results in the expansion of the cellular matrix by 30%, consequently we see yellow and red light. In the state of calmness, the nanocrystals remain in a compact structure and we see the reflection of blue light.
“They’re basically pulling apart or squashing together the lattice,” said Milinkovitch.
Similarly when they see a male member of the kingdom or a receptive female, background color of chameleons’ skin shifts from green to yellow. “This happens within minutes of it seeing another male,” Milinkovitch revealed.
If you are interested in knowing more about the study, you may consider to visit Nature Communications.