Wishing you a very merry and fade free Christmas

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Full Screen Image – European Robin, Glen Convinth, Highland Scotland ©Nick Sidle

The question where do birds’ feathers get their colours is not an entirely simple one but we are now one step closer to understanding some of the mechanisms involved. A study based in Sheffield and published in the journal ‘Scientific Reports’ shows that for some birds, including the Robin, their colours are not the results of pigments that could fade but are the product of the actual structure of the feathers. We are though looking at very small structures, they needed the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble to do the research and that just happens to be one of the most powerful microscopes ever built, a very large step up from your basic table top model.

Spatially modulated structural colour in bird feathers

A significant part of the work was based on looking at the Eurasian Jay, known for its varied plumage including a brilliant blue, and found that variations in the feathers at a nano structural level determined the reflection of light and so the colours that we see.

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Full Screen Image – Eurasian Jay ©Nick Sidle

Science is using technologies like the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility to look at a number of questions that have evaded a complete answer till now, including the issue of how Geckos can manage to run up vertical surfaces and across ceilings and then how these biological marvels can be adapted to use in human engineering. The whole field is has been called biomimetics and could, in the future, lead to some incredible breakthroughs and not just fade free colours. Till more is known though, please don’t try this at home or anywhere else for that matter. Geckos can do it, people can’t, now and at least for the foreseeable future.

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Full Screen Image – Yellow-bellied House Gecko, Thanjavur, South India ©Nick Sidle (Later to become the inspiration for the ‘Hotel Room Lizard’ in the second book of ‘The Heartstone Odyssey’ trilogy)

Nick

Gallery – Scotland’s Birds

Gallery – Tamil Nadu, South India

 

European Robin – Erithacus rubecula

Eurasian Jay – Garrulus glandarius

Yellow-bellied House Gecko – Hemidactylus flaviviridis

Record Year for Basking Sharks

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Full Screen Image – Basking Shark ©Nick Sidle

Wildlife tour operator Basking Shark Scotland has reported a record number of sightings, over 700 between April and October compared to 250 last year and 172 in 2013, mostly around the Inner Hebrides.

Basking Shark Scotland

The Basking Shark is the second largest living fish, smaller only than the Whale Shark, with the largest accurately measured individual being 12.27m (40.3 feet), making it way above even the Great White of mythic dimensions in ‘Jaws’. Basking Sharks are sometimes mistaken for Great Whites because of their size and are the basis for some of the reports of Great Whites there have been in UK waters over the years (whilst there are some that deserve serious consideration there are as yet no confirmed Great White sightings off the British Isles). They are however very different animals and are filter feeders straining out Plankton from seawater and so are of no risk to anyone. Great Whites are in no way the terrifying prospect portrayed in ‘Jaws’ but they do have to be treated with some respect and tragedies have of course happened, even if they are fortunately extremely rare.

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Full Screen Image – Great White Shark ©Nick Sidle

Nick

Marine Scotland Gallery

Marine Australia Gallery

Basking Shark -Cetorhinus maximus

Great White Shark – Carcharodon carcharias