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Optics Express

Optics Express

  • Editor: C. Martijn de Sterke
  • Vol. 18, Iss. 20 — Sep. 27, 2010
  • pp: 21284–21292

Rapid, reversible response of iridescent feather color to ambient humidity

Chad M. Eliason and Matthew D. Shawkey  »View Author Affiliations

Optics Express, Vol. 18, Issue 20, pp. 21284-21292 (2010)

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Colorful traits can vary in response to neural control, hormone levels, reproductive state, or abiotic factors. In birds, colorful plumage traits are generally considered static ornaments that only vary irreversibly due to abrasion, bacterial degradation, or wear. However, in this work it is shown that iridescent feather color varies rapidly and reversibly in response to changes in ambient humidity. Based on optical models and sorption experiments, these changes appear to be caused by a swelling of the outer keratin cortex following water absorption. To our knowledge, this is the first study describing dynamic color changes in any keratinous biophotonic nanostructure.

© 2010 OSA

OCIS Codes
(310.6860) Thin films : Thin films, optical properties
(330.1690) Vision, color, and visual optics : Color

ToC Category:
Thin Films

Original Manuscript: August 10, 2010
Revised Manuscript: September 9, 2010
Manuscript Accepted: September 10, 2010
Published: September 22, 2010

Chad M. Eliason and Matthew D. Shawkey, "Rapid, reversible response of iridescent feather color to ambient humidity," Opt. Express 18, 21284-21292 (2010)

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