Have You Ever Noticed How Rarely You See Blue Things In Nature?
If one thing is going to trip you out today, it’s this: a blue bird isn’t actually blue. In fact, animals with blue feathers, wings, or scales are really projecting an optical illusion with a super scienc-y explanation.
Now that I think about it, it makes sense that there must be some kind of weird reasoning behind it all. It’s really hard to think of blue animals. Fish come to mind, and peacocks. There’s obviously the blue bird as well.
When it comes down to it, however, there are very few blue animals in nature and the reason behind it is super fascinating.
Why Is Blue So Rare In Nature?
Blue is one of the rarest colours in all of nature. Even the few animals and plants that appear blue don’t actually contain the colour, if you can believe that.
The reason blue is so rare in nature is because most colour pigments are not made in our (or animals’) bodies. Most of the time, animals consume foods in their diets that help to make them the colours that they are. An example of this is the flamingo; they’re born grey but turn pink because they eat brine shrimp.
However, part of the reason blue animals are so rare in nature is because blue plants are just as rare. Plus, blue animals’ colours done come from chemical pigments, which is why they’re so different.
So if it’s not what they’re eating that makes animals with blue feathers and scales blue, what is it?
It’s actually the physics of light that make them appear blue. Let’s break that down, shall we?
It’s Not So Much That Plants & Animals With Blue Colours Don’t Exist… We Just Can’t Really See Them
Humans see different wavelengths of light as colour. It’s the way we’ve always perceived different tones and hues. Some animals appear blue, but this is only because they’ve evolved to trick our eyes into seeing them this way.
This principle actually applies to human’s blue eyes as well.
Using physical structures and light reflection, these animals project blue colour. However, upon closer inspection, such as under a microscope or in a specific lab setting, the colour blue is nowhere to be seen.
For example, the blue morpho butterfly appears blue because of the way its wings mirror the light. They have a microscopic structure that absorbs all the other colours except blue. Since the colour is based on the structure of their wings, if the wings come into contact with something different from the air, the blue colour will change.
Birds are another great example of this. All birds that appear to our eyes to be blue are only reflecting blue light. Each of their feathers have tiny beads spaced out in a way that causes all the other colours except blue to disappear.
So What About The Blue Animals That We Can See?
There is only one living creature that’s actually blue: a butterfly called the olivewing. Personally, I think it’s a bit ironic that the only living creature that has actual blue on its body is literally named after green. But that aside, this incredible insect is actually not even that rare.
The olivewing butterfly has chemically evolved the blue pigment on their wings. That colour won’t change no matter how you look at them. Researchers have tried for years to come to an end with this, but they just can’t. I guess that’s the research equivalent of blue balls, amirite?
Is Blue Pigment Rare In Plants Too?
Most plants are green because of the compound chlorophyll, which has a green pigment. The bright red of a red pepper is from its carotenoid structure. This is why people who eat too many carrots take on an orange tinge.
Plants are the same as animals when it comes to their blue-ness. They’re not actually blue, but rather reflecting blue light. The main reason for this also has to do with the physics of light. Pigments appear the colour of the light they reflect, rather than the light they absorb.
Check out these other gorgeous blue creatures!