Nanostructures, not pigments, color bird feathers

A new Yale study reveals that nanostructures with structures similar to sponges or beer foam produce birds’ brightly colored feathers. On the other hand, most colors in nature, such as human skin color, are produced by pigments. The study, which appears online in the journal Soft Matter, also explained how the structures self-assemble like materials undergoing phase separation. Eric Dufresne, lead author on the paper, said the finding may have technological applications, providing insights into the laboratory production of optical materials.

Butterfly wings multifunctional

Yale biologists have shown that butterflies can both attract potential mates and scare off predators using spots located on opposite sides of their wings — providing support for the old evolutionary biology theory that the upper side of butterfly wings serve different a function from the underside. The study, which appeared April 1 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society Biological Sciences, is the first to show that species can use the same signal — in this case, spots — to relay two different messages.

Office of Sustainability gives out awards

The Office of Sustainability gave out three awards to Yale staff and faculty for their sustainable efforts at an invitation-only breakfast midway through last week’s Sustainability Summit. Director Newman said the award recipients — Tom Downing, Yale’s senior energy manager; Sara Smiley Smith, a graduate student and research assistant at the Office of Sustainability; and the group of 47 Sustainability Leaders who coordinate sustainable efforts within their departments — had made notable efforts to help Yale reduce its environmental footprint as an institution.