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Fishy flash

The shimmery, metallic sheen of a fish in shallow water may confuse predators or dazzle mates. Now scientists have uncovered clues to how the fish build their bling. Somehow fish alter the growth of the light-reflecting crystals layered in their skin's cellular matrix, bestowing superior shine. The findings hint at a way to create super-reflective crystals in the lab for use in products like cosmetics and paints.

"We were amazed," says Avital Levy-Lior, a materials scientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. "The crystals' growth is completely opposite than what we expected."

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