Nanocrystals explain chameleons’ color shifts | Science News

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Nanocrystals explain chameleons’ color shifts

chameleon

Dazzling chameleons flash different hues by stretching and flexing reflective nanocrystals in their skin.

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Scientists have discovered the secret behind chameleons’ fabulous color-changing ways: nanobling.

Tiny, adjustable crystals embedded in chameleons’ skin reflect specific wavelengths of light based on their position, scientists report March 10 in Nature Communications. By simply stretching or contracting their glittery skin, the lizards can change color and regulate their body temperature.

The wee crystals are made of guanine, a component of DNA, and show up in two layers, researchers found. The top layer reflects visible light, switching from reflecting short wavelengths (such as blues) when relaxed to longer wavelengths (such as reds) when stretched. The bottom layer of crystals reflects lizard-warming infrared wavelengths.

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