A unique type of bird species found in Papua New Guinea has got the darkest form of the black color, according to a new study. The name of the bird species is Bird-of-Paradise. The study says that the feathers of those birds are so black that they absorb virtually every photon of light that touches them.
The scientists investigated the super-black feathers of the birds of paradise and found out that the feathers absorb almost 99.95 percent of the visible light that falls on it. Vantablack, which is known as the darkest artificial substances known, absorbs almost 99.96 percent of incident light. You could imagine know how dark the feathers of the birds of paradise are.
According to the study author Dakota McCoy from Harvard University, the super-black feathers make the bird of paradise so dark that it looks like a black hole on a shelf. The scientists believe that super-black feathers of the birds-of-paradise evolved naturally so as to make the colors look brighter during mating dance. Specifically, the male bird-of-paradise exhibits the super-black feather.
McCoy said that by displaying their super-black feathers and doing complicated mating dance, the males try to attract their female counterparts. The females would then pick the one with whom they want to mate with. McCoy further said that the females are picky and if they see a single feather twister or deformed, they will not mate. “It’s like an arms race. Males have to find ways to make their colors look even better to the female,” said McCoy.
The researchers said that after finding the bird-of-paradise in a museum, they were curious to know more about the how super-black plumage got infused into those birds. They scanned the super black feathers with an electron microscope and CT scanners and compared the data with that of regular black feathers. They found out that the regular black feathers had single barbs attached to a main stem whereas, in the case of super-black feathers, a lot of tiny spines were found.
According to the researchers, these tiny spines or microstructures have structural absorption properties similar to man-made super-black materials like solar panels, Vantablack, etc. The tiny structures or barbules are bent 30 degrees towards the outer tip of the feather, so when light falls on those feathers, it gets reflected into the deep cavities present between the tiny structures. Hence, all the incident light gets absorbed by the feather giving it super black coloring. McCoy said that if there are no flat surfaces, then light gets completely absorbed by the feathers. The latest discovery of super-black feathers of birds of paradise is very interesting and this might helps scientists create materials that scatter light in such a way that the more and more light gets absorbed.