Chameleons are not the only creatures which can change color on this planet but they are the best. In fact it is used in an adage to describe a cunning manipulator. The best at changing colors are the panther chameleons in particular.

The Panther Chameleons are particularly adept of shade shifting and can go from green and blue to yellow and even red ones in a matter of minutes. It is only now that scientists have been able to fully unravel exactly the actual process of how the chameleon is able to change its colors.

Researchers have been reporting to Nature Communications and revealed that instead of relying on pigments the chameleon boast nanocrystals called iridophores beneath their skin. These nanocrystals contract or expand to reflect different levels of light.

To observe this phenomenon more closely the researchers choose male panther chameleon of Madagascar. It was a difficult specimen since it was very skilled at shade shifting.

Study co-author Michel Milinkovitch, a biophysicist at the University of Geneva, tells the Los Angeles Times, “I assure you: In Madagascar, they are really difficult to spot.”

Scientists Unravel How Chameleons Really Change Their Color

Transmission electron microscopy was used by the researchers to study color changes and examining the chameleons’ skin. The researchers found that there are two layers of skin with iridophores. tiny guanine nanocrystals features very specific spacing between each crystal that in turn reflects different layers of light-shorter spacing will reflect blue light while longer spacing will reflect red light.

Interaction with the yellow pigment cells (xanthophores) in the skin leads to the formation of greens and oranges. The crystals could also reflect near infra red light and this could probably help to cool the chameleon in the intense heat conditions.

Milinkovitch adds “We need to continue investigating the chameleons,”because part of the answers is there and nowhere else.” (Chameleons don’t necessarily boast longevity.)

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