There is a misconception about chameleons… that they change their color in order to blend in with their environment. That is actually not the case…

So why do chameleons change color and how are they doing it? In this episode of Veritasium, Derek Muller explains how chameleons reflect their moods with color, communicating that mood to other chameleons or predators in the process, and how new collaborative research from University of Geneva physicists and biologists illuminates how their skin actually works.

Like a Blue Morpho butterfly, chameleons are literally reflecting color (specifically blue) with tiny nano-crystals below their yellow pigment cells. Additionally, the nanoscale crystals can be “actively tuned” to change to yellow, orange, and red. Watch as Mueller explains and illustrates the research.

For a deeper dive, read the research: Photonic crystals cause active colour change in chameleons, or follow up with this article from SlashGear.

Also in the news: We Can Now Make Synthetic Chameleon Skin.

Related videos: Blue Morphos, more Veritasium, and more chameleons, including how chameleon colors predict who will win a fight.

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