Chameleons are a top-tier freaky pet
that you just can’t help but be mesmerized by
and their active color changing abilities
are a picture perfect example of chemistry going hand in hand with evolution.
Believe it or not,these oddball reptiles
are actually working with a different chemical toolbox
than cephalopods and their other color-changing counterparts.
Today we’re looking how they work their magic,
and how it’s inspired scientists to invent up-and-coming technologies!
One thing that really stands out about chameleons
is that they always have this suspiciously chilled out look on their faces,
but that’s not all when it comes to bizarre features.
Their feet are zygodactylous, with three toes facing forward
and two going the opposite direction.
They also have monocular vision,
so their eyes can move about and focus independently from one another!
If you’ve ever seen a chameleon eat,
then you also know about their amazing projectile tongues!
But the cream of the crop of their freaky features
is going to have to be their psychedelic skin.
Chameleons have the ability to actively change both their color and brightness,
While it’s often thought to be used for just camouflage.
Scientists believe that there are two other fundamental uses,
the first being intra-specific interspecies communication,
and the second being a means for thermoregulation.
Because chameleons are cold blooded,
they need sunlight to heat themselves up to get their metabolism running.
By controlling how bright or dark they are,
they can better regulate how much heat they take on.
And while their color changing
may not seem to stand out from cephalopods and others
they do have a chemical mechanism that sets them apart from the crowd.
Cephalopods and chameleons
have color-changing cells called chromatophores
that carry pigments inside of them that can be displayed at will.
However, there is a big difference between the two.
The chameleon’s version comes equipped with an advanced layer of nano-science.
This colorful little guy is known as a panther chameleon,
and its skin can exhibit a range of these specific colors
Here’s where it gets interesting: only /these/ specific colors.
can be displayed by the typical pigments release by chromatophores.
So where do they get those whites, blues, and greens?
那么白色 蓝色 绿色从何而来呢
From unique cells called iridophores.
Iridophores aren’t filled with pigments
but instead with tiny little structures of
nano-crystals that can produce iridescent blue light at their resting state.
The chameleon can excite these crystals,
rearranging them into a different structure that changes
the wavelengths of light that they absorb and reflect.
This turns them from blue to white.
We’re not sure exactly how chameleons control their iridophores,
but we suspect that they’re working with either neural or hormonal controls.
And while some cephalopods are packing iridophores too,
the chameleons are the ones that have truly mastered them.
inside the panther chameleon’s skin
are several layers of different colored chromatophore
the top layers contains a mix of yellow xanthophores
and red orange erythrophores
The bottom layer has brown, melanin-bearing melanophores，
mixed into the top layer of red and yellow chromatophores
for iridescent light generating iridophores
and in-between these two layers you find reflective iridophores.
The chameleon changes its skin color
by adjusting the pigments released by their chromatophores
and then takes things one step further
by using those iridophores
to change the way we perceive the chromatophore’s pigments
For example, the Panther Chameleon can produce a green color
because those resting nanocrystals reflect blue light
So pair that with the yellow pigment up above
and your eyes perceive green.
Then when excited, the blue becomes white
然后 在兴奋时 蓝色变成白色
which will make the yellow xanthophores stand out more prominently.
This use of nanocrystals is so ingenious
that it even inspired scientists in China
to come up with their own active camouflage nanotechnology!
Instead of of iridophores, these researchers created tiny gold nanoparticle domes
that they housed in cells filled with a silver ion loaded gel.
By sending different charges through the gel
silver ions will tack onto, or break off of the gold nano-domes
which changes the wavelengths of light they absorb and reflect.
The team attached this system to cameras
and can currently change the active color of the cells to red, green, and blue.
目前可将细胞的活性颜色改为红色 绿色 和蓝色
So what do you think? If this technology keeps advancing
will we ever see active camouflage as advanced as the predators?
Let us know down in the comments.
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Chameleons are a top-tier freaky pet