Blue animals: Iguana The Grand Cayman iguana comes by its beautiful hue naturally. (Photo: Matt Reinbold [CC BY-SA 2.0]/Flickr)

Blue has long been considered the world's most popular favorite color, even though it's the rarest occurring pigment found in nature. Sure, we can see blue quite easily in the sky and water, but its tendency to appear in animals, like the endangered Grand Cayman blue iguana pictured above, is fairly uncommon.

The main reason why blue is so elusive has to do with the relatively narrow range of pigments that cause coloration in animals. Red and orange pigments are produced by carotenoids, brown and black pigments are produced by eumelanins and yellow pigments are produced by pteridine compounds.

While plants can produce blue pigments thanks to anthocyanins, most creatures in the animal kingdom are unable to make blue pigments. Any instances of blue coloration you come across in animals are typically the result of structural effects, such as iridescence and selective reflection.

Take, for example, the bluejay. This little bird produces melanin, meaning it should technically appear almost black. However, tiny air sacs in the bird's feathers scatter light, making it appear blue to our eyes. This is called Rayleigh scattering, a phenomenon that is also responsible for the age-old "why is the sky blue?" question.

Even though these critters are rare, they do, in fact, exist. Here's a look at just a few animals with exquisite blue coloring:

Little Blue Heron

Blue animals: Little Blue Heron Photo: Charles "Skip" Martin/500px

Blue-Ringed Octopus

Blue animals: Blue-ringed octopus Photo: Angell Williams [CC BY 2.0]/Flickr

Blue-Eyed Kitten

Blue animals: Blue-eyed kitten Photo: Pablo Antonio Vincente Casillas/500px


Blue animals: Bluejay Photo: Randen Pederson [CC BY-SA 2.0]/Flickr

Augochloropsis sumptuosa, Also Known as the Sweat Bee

Blue animals: Metallic blue bee Photo: USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab [public domain]/Flickr

Moon Jellyfish

Blue animals: Moon jellies Photo: Johnathan Nightingale [CC BY-SA 2.0]/Flickr

Blue Poison Dart Frog

Blue animals: Frog Photo: Philipp Weimer/500px

Glaucus atlanticus, Also Known as a Blue Dragon

Blue animals: Glaucus atlanticus Photo: Imtorn [CC BY-SA 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons

Blue Morpho Butterfly

Blue animals: Morpho butterfly Photo: William Warby [CC BY 2.0]/Flickr

Arizona Bark Scorpions, as Seen Under a Black Light

Blue animals: Arizona bark scorpions under black light Photo: Matt Reinbold [CC BY-SA 2.0]/Flickr

Catie Leary ( @catieleary ) writes about science, travel, animals and the arts.

11 elusively blue animals: The rarest critters of them all
Most creatures in the animal kingdom are unable to make blue pigments. Here's a few exceptions to that rule.