Send to

Choose Destination
Nature. 2001 Jan 4;409(6816):36-7.

Photonic engineering. Aphrodite's iridescence.

Author information

Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK.


The most intense colours displayed in nature result from either multilayer reflectors or linear diffraction gratings. Here we investigate the spectacular iridescence of a spine (notoseta) from the sea mouse Aphrodita sp. (Polychaeta: Aphroditidae). The spine normally appears to be deep red in colour, but when light is incident perpendicular to the axis of the spine, different colours are seen as stripes running parallel to the axis of the spine; over a range of smaller incident angles, the complete visible spectrum is reflected with a reflectivity of 100% to the human eye. The simple structure responsible for this effect is a remarkable example of photonic engineering by a living organism.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Nature Publishing Group
Loading ...
Support Center