A new form of structural blue

Little blue penguins (Eudyptula minor)

As you know, the blue in birds’ feathers comes not from a pigment but from structures that scatter light in the blue range, reflecting only blue back to the observer. For the first time in thirty years a new way of producing them has been found.A group of scientists, who investigated the blue-generating structures in penguin feathers so that they could identify them in fossils, found a previously unknown structure. They looked at the feathers of the Little Blue Penguin, which has the “tuxedo” pattern of penguins (and orcas), using dark blue where others have black, and found an entirely new structure using groups of parallel beta-keratin fibres instead of the usual holes in beta-keratin.

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