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Biophotonics of diversely coloured peacock tail feathers

Abstract

Peacock feathers feature a rich gamut of colours, created by a most sophisticated structural colouration mechanism. The feather barbules contain biophotonic structures consisting of two-dimensionally-ordered lattices of cylindrical melanosomes and air channels embedded in keratin. Here, we study the reflectance characteristics of the various peacock tail feather colours by applying bifurcated-probe- and micro-spectrophotometry and imaging scatterometry. We compare the experimental results with published anatomical SEM and TEM data, using a transfer-matrix based effective-medium multilayer model that includes the number and diameter of the melanosome rodlets and air channels, the lattice spacing and the keratin cortex thickness, together with the recently determined wavelength-dependence of the refractive indices of keratin and melanin. Slight variations in the parameter values cause substantial changes in spectral position and shape of the reflectance bands. We find that the number of layers crucially determines the number of peaks in the reflectance spectra. For a small number of melanosome layers, the reflectance band shape is particularly sensitive to the properties of the upper-most layer, which poses a simple mechanism for tuning the feather colours.

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Article information


Submitted
09 Mar 2020
Accepted
11 May 2020
First published
12 May 2020

This article is Open Access

Faraday Discuss., 2020, Accepted Manuscript
Article type
Paper

Biophotonics of diversely coloured peacock tail feathers

P. Freyer and D. G. Stavenga, Faraday Discuss., 2020, Accepted Manuscript , DOI: 10.1039/D0FD00033G

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    [Original citation] - Published by The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) on behalf of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and the RSC.
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    [Original citation] - Published by The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) on behalf of the European Society for Photobiology, the European Photochemistry Association, and RSC.
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    [Original citation] - Published by The Royal Society of Chemistry.

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