Snail shell creates blue iridescence with mineral | Science News

ADVERTISEMENT

MISSION CRITICAL

Support credible science journalism.

Subscribe to Science News today.


First

Snail shell creates blue iridescence with mineral

Mollusk uses calcium compound to shine, possibly as defense

By
10:14am, March 17, 2015
limpet

INTO THE BLUE  The bright patterns on a hard-shelled mollusk may mimic those of a shell-free, poisonous snail. 

Taking a trick from birds and butterflies, a mollusk shines blue using intricate structures that allow selective reflection of light. But unlike other animals, the blue-rayed limpet, a snail that lives along the rocky shores of the northeastern Atlantic, creates functional iridescence using a hard mineral rather than an organic molecule such as a protein.

The shell of the blue-rayed limpet, Patella pellucida, is largely made of calcium carbonate platelets. Just beneath the shell's surface, materials scientist Ling Li of Harvard University and his colleagues found two distinct microscopic arrangements of the mineral: a zigzag structure that reflects blue light and a layer of spherical particles that absorbs the rest of the light, rendering the blue brilliant.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join the Society today or Log in.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content