Jump to main content
Jump to site search
Access to RSC content Close the message box

Continue to access RSC content when you are not at your institution. Follow our step-by-step guide.


Issue 7, 2020
Previous Article Next Article

Translucent in air and iridescent in water: structural analysis of a salamander egg sac

Author affiliations

Abstract

Females of some Asian salamanders of the genus Hynobius deposit in streams their eggs embedded in a translucent envelope called an ‘egg sac’. The edges of the envelope exhibit a spectacular blue-to-yellow iridescent glow, which instantaneously disappears when the sac is removed from water. First, our scanning electron microscopy analyses reveal that the inner surface of the 100 μm-thick envelope displays striations (length scale of about 3 μm), which are themselves covered by much smaller (190 ± 30 nm) and quasi-periodic corrugations. The latter could constitute a surface diffraction grating generating iridescence by light interference. Second, our transmission electron microscopy and focused-ion-beam scanning electron microscopy analyses show that the bulk of the egg sac wall is composed of meandering fibres with a quasi-periodic modulation of 190 ± 60 nm along the thickness of the envelope, generating a photonic crystal. Third, Fourier power analyses of 450 electron microscopy images with varying incident angles indicate that changing the surrounding medium from water to air shifts most of the backscattered power spectrum to the ultraviolet range, hence, explaining that the egg sac loses visible iridescence when removed out of the water. Fourth, the results of our photography and optical spectroscopy experiments of submerged and emerged egg sacs rule out the possibility that the iridescence is due to a thin film or a multilayer, whereas the observed non-specular response is compatible with the backscattering expected from surface diffraction gratings and volumetric photonic crystals with spatial 1D modulation. Finally, although we mention several potential biological functions of the egg sac structural colours and iridescence, we emphasise that these optical properties might be the by-products of the envelope material internal structure selected during evolution for its mechanical properties.

Graphical abstract: Translucent in air and iridescent in water: structural analysis of a salamander egg sac

Back to tab navigation

Supplementary files

Article information


Submitted
29 Oct 2019
Accepted
29 Jan 2020
First published
07 Feb 2020

This article is Open Access

Soft Matter, 2020,16, 1714-1721
Article type
Communication

Translucent in air and iridescent in water: structural analysis of a salamander egg sac

A. V. Zabuga, M. I. Arrigo, J. Teyssier, S. R. Mouchet, K. Nishikawa, M. Matsui, M. Vences and M. C. Milinkovitch, Soft Matter, 2020, 16, 1714
DOI: 10.1039/C9SM02151E

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported Licence. Material from this article can be used in other publications provided that the correct acknowledgement is given with the reproduced material and it is not used for commercial purposes.

Reproduced material should be attributed as follows:

  • For reproduction of material from NJC:
    [Original citation] - Published by The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) on behalf of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and the RSC.
  • For reproduction of material from PCCP:
    [Original citation] - Published by the PCCP Owner Societies.
  • For reproduction of material from PPS:
    [Original citation] - Published by The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) on behalf of the European Society for Photobiology, the European Photochemistry Association, and RSC.
  • For reproduction of material from all other RSC journals:
    [Original citation] - Published by The Royal Society of Chemistry.

Information about reproducing material from RSC articles with different licences is available on our Permission Requests page.


Social activity

Search articles by author

Spotlight

Advertisements