If you’ve been here for any decent length of time, you know how much I love shiny things.
So when a friend told me that National Geographic had a blog post on the evolution of shiny things, how could I resist!? The blog post was specifically discussing how structural iridescence has originated in birds (shiny birds!); I feel that this is very exciting (and not just because it involves shiny things).
A few weeks ago, I posted about how there are no blue pigments in birds, and how a lot of the colouration in their feathers is due to structural pigmentation, or the way that light refracts on their feathers. Iridescence is also a structural feature of bird feathers (and insect wings and beetle elytra, etc.).
The interesting thing about this post (and the paper it was based on, Maia et al. 2013), is that it describes how a particular group of birds (the starlings) have modified melanosomes that contribute to their iridescence as well, adding layers and depth to their colouration.
Essentially, these structural pigments evolve more rapidly, which is thought to have led to the diversification of the starling family. The idea is that small changes in structure can lead to large changes in perceived colour, while developing pigments is a lot more difficult because it requires the construction of whole new compounds.
Of course, at the bottom of that post, they also have several links to other shiny things…