Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The things you didn’t know about wildlife and colour

The poppy

Carnival is over, bringing an end to five days of colour that added some cheer to life after weeks of dull cloudy weather. 

For this carnival as in previous years many designers were inspired by the most colourful species in nature particularly parrots, butterflies and fish. 

Colours are used as an effective means of communication giving such messages as “I am good to eat”, “I am dangerous” and “I am a good partner”. 

On the other hand colours are often used as camouflage to hide the animal from prey or predators.

Many fruits and berries change colour from green to red as they ripen. 

Plants want birds and mammals to eat their fruit only when the seeds are fully developed and until this happens the fruit is not fit to eat.

Flowers use colour to attract pollinators, especially insects. 

Bright colours are easily seen against a green background but what we see is not necessarily what insects see because although insects, like humans can distinguish colours, their range of vision is different from ours. 

Insects are able to see ultraviolet light which we are not. Thus some flowers that are plain to us have lines and patterns that guide the insects to the nectar.

Many orchids are shaped and coloured like particular insects to mislead males into thinking that they are females and thus land on them and unwittingly carry pollen from one flower to the other.

This article was published in The Times on 26.02.12)

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