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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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ScienceShot: Why Some Penguins Wear a Blue Tuxedo
8 February 2011 7:01 pm
Feeling small and blue today? Eudyptula minor goes through its whole life that way. This Australian bird—the smallest of all penguins at around 30 cm high—sports a notable blue tint in its feathers, hence its common name, the Little Blue Penguin. Using high-powered microscopes, researchers have now discovered that nanometer-sized fibers in the bird's wing feathers provide the unusual blue hue. Made from keratin, the same material as human hair, these nanofibers are packed together like bundles of uncooked spaghetti, the team reports online today in Biology Letters. The penguin's color is due to blue light that is scattered when it hits the fibers, while all other wavelengths of light just pass through the feathers. This is a new mechanism for giving feathers a blue color, the authors say; similar nanofibers are found in the blue skin of other birds, such as Emus, but those fibers are made of collagen. What advantage the colorful feathers provide for Little Blue remains unknown, but they certainly aren't being caught dead in the same black and white tuxedo as most of their relatives.
See more ScienceShots.