Date:December 21, 2015
Source:University of Sheffield
Birds use sophisticated changes to the structure of their feathers to create multi-coloured plumage, using a process that could pave the way for the creation of paints and clothing colours that won't fade over time.
Using X-ray scattering at the ESRF facility in France to examine the blue and white feathers of the Jay, researchers from the University of Sheffield found that birds demonstrate a surprising level of control and sophistication in producing colours.
Instead of simply using dyes and pigments that would fade over time, the birds use well-controlled changes to the nanostructure to create their vividly coloured feathers -- which are possibly used for Jays to recognise one another. The Jay is able to pattern these different colours along an individual feather barb -- the equivalent of having many different colours along a single human hair.
The Jay's feather, which goes from ultra violet in colour through to blue and into white, is made of a nanostructured spongy keratin material, exactly the same kind of material human hair and fingernails are made from.