The color of each plant, mammal, bird, fish, reptile, insect, and amphibian that is alive today is the result of its evolutionary process. Color helps living things fit into their natural surroundings, whether it’s into the wilds of the jungle, plains, mountains, woods, desert, or sea.
Post updated 2/7/2021
In natural habitats, living things take advantage of their color and colored patterns in different ways.
In mating season, the male robin (bird) has bright red breast feathers to attract a mate. The male puffin (another bird) displays bright rings on his beak only during mating season. They fade away the rest of the year.
Flounder (a type of fish) has scales to blend in with its surroundings and to ward of predators both from below and above. See more about fish camouflage now.
Many species of chameleons have skin that can change color and blend into its environment. Some types of wildlife have skin with spots or stripes, and it's used as disruptive colorization. This means animals including zebras have stripes in colors that disrupt the outline of its shape, and this pattern helps confuse its predators.
An eastern screech owl, who is almost a perfect color match to the bark of trees it hangs out on, can sleep restfully undisturbed, while those animals that hunt for him can’t locate him.
Vivid colors in the animal kingdom can have the reverse effect. They help animals stand out from the crowd. Some animals that display bright colors show they are poisonous.
On the other hand, there are animals that use warning colors for mimicry. Their color is similar to ones used by dangerous animals, and this disguise offers protection to the harmless animal.
Sometimes distinct colors act as a warning sign to other animals and people not to trespass. For instance, most of us know when we notice a small black creature scurrying nearby, to check out whether the animal has a white stripe running down its back. We may even have learned the hard way to keep a safe distance from that black and white skunk.
Mammals like raccoons have nocturnal habits, and can see well in darkness. The mask of black fur covering raccoon eyes is its most familiar feature. One theory for the dark fur around a raccoon’s eyes is that this color may reduce glare and enhance its night vision ability.
Another adaptation mammals have made is that their colorization is usually subdued to blend into their surroundings. This trait serves to protect both themselves and their offspring.
Color variations in mammals like lions are subtle and range from shades of light to dark brown. Other mammal colors range from shades of browns, grays, white, to deepest black.
Nonetheless, some mammals are color exceptions. Golden tamarins (monkeys), and vivid blue or red colored male mandrills and gelada monkeys exhibit brilliant hues on hair, fur, or wool.
In the plant kingdom, boldly colored fruits and berries like apples and blueberries broadcast the message “eat me.”
Flowers and seeds are eye candy for bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. These creatures help pollinate and spread the seeds of plants including apple and pomegranate trees.
Some scientists reason that the history of eating red, ripe nutrient rich foods stimulates the body's sensory system. Perhaps that explains why fruit-eating living things like horses, birds, and rabbits know instinctively they want an apple, even before it’s had a chance to drop to the ground.
From the deep purples of grapes and orange of sweet potatoes to the reds of tomatoes and greens of leaf lettuce and chard, bright colors indicate the plant is loaded with nutrients.
Colors tell us when plants are ripe and ready to be eaten. Color is also a clue to which nutrients may be present. Colorful flowers, berries, nuts, and seeds advertise to those that are pollinators and hungry animals/insects that they are a tempting food source worth paying attention to.
Research into human behavior and nutrition habits indicates a strong link between eating brightly colored fruits and vegetables and health and well-being. Do you agree?
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