Chameleons have an impressive set of physical characteristics within their flesh to make their skin change colors as it does. A new study revealed that chameleons have the ability to change color due to the crystals that exist within their skin, and while that might seem a bit farfetched, or like something out of a movie – it actually is relatively simple, and logical science backing up their color change. Chameleons are armed with these tiny, and intricate crystals in their flesh, and what happens is these crystals have the ability to move.
As they move, the space that is created between the crystals ultimately creates the light that we see when we’re looking at them. The crystals are in turn creating different wavelengths of light by moving those crystals around, and shifting them within their skin – and ultimately creates varying colors in appearance when they are seen.
The most-recent study shows that specifically – the change in color from green to red is one that takes place via the separation of crystals – something that scientists are just beginning to understand now. The team led by Professor Michel Milinkovitch at the University of Geneva studied the panther chameleon to come to their conclusions, as the panther chameleon is known globally to have one of the most-impressive color combinations of any chameleon on the planet.
Interestingly, the study found that males typically experience the greatest color changes when they come in contact with another competing male. The move is one that is used to create dominance, but “happens within minutes of it seeing another male.” The crystals that exist within the skin are made of guanine, and specifically are a key component of DNA inside these creatures. The study also found that the fluctuation between one color to the next is around a 30% increase or decrease in size and position.
Milinkovitch said, “They’re basically pulling apart or squashing together the lattice,” which is a very simplified way of explaining the process that happens when a chameleon is changing its color from one to the next. This is something that could lend to significant learning in other animals around the world – as this creates a starting point for scientists to begin analyzing – given the fact that what they’re seeing is something that is based within the DNA. The one thing that scientists aren’t certain about is how they make the move happen. Meaning, they’re unsure of how chameleons make the cells move or move the crystals within the lattice. Which will be cause for future studies, of course.