Scientists discover how birds and dinosaurs evolved to dazzle with colourful displays

Iridescence is responsible for some of the most striking visual displays in the animal kingdom. Now, thanks to a new study of feathers from almost 100 modern bird species, scientists have gained new insights into how this color diversity evolved.

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Great topic, Patrick! It brings back memories of when I was a child. I was fascinated by the beautiful color patterns which would appear on the “oil slicks” formed when I would add motor oil to our B or H tractors and a few droplets would fall into a mud puddle below. I’d sometimes “swirl” the water with a stick in order to watch the color patterns become all the more entertaining.

After my uncle bought some peacocks and I started looking at their feathers in the bright sunlight, I immediately recognized that the same kind of physics was at work (based on morphologies at a very tiny scale, not simple pigments.) Iridescence is just plain cool! (Don’t I sound like a hipster from the 1960’s?)

I wonder how many young people first got interested in physics due to striking phenomena like iridescence.