sea sapphire sea sapphire The color-changing abilities of the sea sapphire may be useful in developing new optical technologies. (Photo: Screenshot / Youtube)

Sea creature's mysterious disappearing trick explained

Researchers discover how a tiny aquatic creature can turn iridescent colors and even become invisible.

Sea sapphires, millimeter-long crustaceans that live in fresh or salt water, can turn splendid iridescent shades of blue, purple or green, and even become invisible.

For a long time, we had no idea how they did this. But new research at Israel's Weizmann Institute has solved the mystery.

The creatures have a bunch of plates on their backs that reflect light. By adjusting the spacing and rotation of these plates, sea sapphires (also known as Sapphirinidae) change color. And by rotating their plates enough, they can even turn an ultraviolet shade humans can't see, making them transparent.

It's only the males who change their colors; the females are invisible.

According to Nanowerk, "Scientists think that their unique magic trick could help Sapphirinidae escape predators when necessary, but still display their flashy colors when a female of the species – or possibly another male – is nearby."


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