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Journal Articles Biology Letters Year : 2005

Ultraviolet reflecting photonic microstructures in the King Penguin beak

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Abstract

King and emperor penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus and Aptenodytes forsteri) are the only species of marine birds so far known to reflect ultraviolet (UV) light from their beaks. Unlike humans, most birds perceive UV light and several species communicate using the near UV spectrum. Indeed, UV reflectance in addition to the colour of songbird feathers has been recognized as an important signal when choosing a mate. The king penguin is endowed with several highly coloured ornaments, notably its beak horn and breast and auricular plumage, but only its beak reflects UV, a property considered to influence its sexual attraction. Because no avian UV-reflecting pigments have yet been identified, the origin of such reflections is probably structural. In an attempt to identify the structures that give rise to UV reflectance, we combined reflectance spectrophotometry and morphological analysis by both light and electron microscopy, after experimental removal of surface layers of the beak horn. Here, we characterize for the first time a multilayer reflector photonic microstructure that produces the UV reflections in the king penguin beak.

Dates and versions

hal-02168827 , version 1 (29-06-2019)

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Birgitta Dresp, Pierre Jouventin, Keith Langley. Ultraviolet reflecting photonic microstructures in the King Penguin beak. Biology Letters, 2005, 1 (3), pp.310-313. ⟨10.1098/rsbl.2005.0322⟩. ⟨hal-02168827⟩
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