What do you know about the colors of nature?

When it comes to the dazzling colors of nature, what you see is not always what you get; and sometimes what you get might not be what you expected. Take the quiz and see if you can solve a few of nature’s colorful mysteries. We’re guessing that by the time you’re finished, you’ll never look at some birds, animals and flowers the same way again!

Question 1 of 15

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How do male Eastern bluebirds get their color?

The size and spacing of these structures emit wavelengths of light that are selectively amplified and cause the observer to only perceive that the feathers are blue. 

Question 2 of 15

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What do scientists call the process by which male Eastern bluebirds get their color?

Tiny air pockets in the barbs of feathers scatter incoming light, resulting in a specific color, in this case ... blue.

Question 3 of 15

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Seed capsules of the bird of paradise plant get their yellow color from a pigment that causes what condition in humans?

What makes this pigment so unusual in bird of paradise plants is that it is a pigment typically found in animals.

Question 4 of 15

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Lobsters come in a variety of colors.

Lobsters can be blue, yellow, greenish-brown, grey, dark orange, calico and spotted; on very rare occasions, they can even be albino. 

Question 5 of 15

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What causes a lobster to turn red when it is cooked?

The freed pigment reflects wavelengths of light in the red spectrum, and hence, the creature becomes "red as a lobster."

Question 6 of 15

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What causes white flowers to be white?

Blue, red and green waves of light are reflected in equal parts, which the human eye sees as white. 

Question 7 of 15

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How do ‘black’ flowers get their color?

These two pigments absorb the visible wavelengths, resulting in a black appearance.

Question 8 of 15

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Sir Isaac Newton performed the earliest studies of how the wave nature of light affects color with what creatures?

Newton discovered that moving the peacock’s tail feathers caused the creature’s colors to subtly shift; he wrote about the discovery in his 1704 “Treatise on Optics.”

Question 9 of 15

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What color is the light from the sun?

Using a prism, sunlight can be broken up into the spectrum of its colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

Question 10 of 15

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Why is the sky blue?

They scatter more blue than other colors, and thus, that's what we see.

Question 11 of 15

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What causes leaves to turn vibrant red colors in the fall?

These pigments are produced as the chlorophyll breaks down.

Question 12 of 15

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What color are golden net-winged beetles?

While no one seems to know for sure, the common name of Dictyoptera aurora is likely based on the species name, aurora, which is based on the Roman goddess of dawn/sunrise; thus the golden relation.

Question 13 of 15

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What causes variegation in leaves?

A lack of the green pigment chlorophyll causes white variegation (this is usually the result of a cell mutation), whereas a separation between the top layers of cells results in silver variegation.

Question 14 of 15

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What causes an iridescent appearance in some birds, butterflies or beetles?

The interference allows some wavelengths of light to be reflected and others to pass through physical structures on the organism.

Question 15 of 15

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Optics researchers studied the natural properties of what organisms to gain new insights into how biology may be used to recreate the appearance of some of nature's most precious metals?

Conquistadors of the 1500s didn’t think of Costa Rica as being rich in gold and silver. Perhaps they never saw two native beetles, Chrysina aurigans, a gold-colored one, and C. limbata, a silver-colored one.

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