High refractive index of melanin in shiny occipital feathers of a bird of paradise

Stavenga, Doekele G, Leertouwer, Hein L, Osorio, Daniel C and Wilts, Bodo D (2015) High refractive index of melanin in shiny occipital feathers of a bird of paradise. Light: Science and Applications, 4 (1). e243. ISSN 2047-7538

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Male Lawes's Parotia, a bird of paradise, use the highly directional reflection of the structurally colored, brilliant-silvery occipital feathers in their courtship display. As in other birds, the structural coloration is produced by ordered melanin pigmentation. The barbules of the Parotia's occipital feathers, with thickness ~3 µm, contain 6–7 layers of densely packed melanin rodlets (diameter ~0.25 µm, length ~2 µm). The effectively ~0.2 µm thick melanin layers separated by ~0.2 µm thick keratin layers create a multilayer interference reflector. Reflectance measurements yielded peak wavelengths in the near-infrared at ~1.3 µm, i.e., far outside the visible wavelength range. With the Jamin-Lebedeff interference microscopy method recently developed for pigmented media, we here determined the refractive index of the intact barbules. We thus derived the wavelength dependence of the refractive index of the barbules' melanin to be 1.7–1.8 in the visible wavelength range. Implementing the anatomical and refractive index data in an optical multilayer model, we calculated the barbules' reflectance, transmittance and absorptance spectra, thereby confirming measured spectra.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Depositing User: Nikoleta Kiapidou
Date Deposited: 30 Jun 2015 12:42
Last Modified: 15 Jul 2019 09:01
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/55058

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