This Is The Shiniest Living Thing On The Planet

Hidden away deep in a Central African forest is something quite special. The Pollia berry's name doesn't quite do it justice, because this thing is shiny. Damn shiny. In fact, it's the shiniest living thing in the world.

These fruits, which look a bit like something you might hang on a Christmas tree, owe the title to their microscopic physical structure. In fact, it might shock you to hear that they contain no blue pigment whatsoever.

The surface of the berries is actually made of four layers of thick-walled cells, each layer itself containing more layers made of cellulose fibres. All those fibres run parallel in their own layer, but the layers are all slightly rotated relative to each other, forming a spiral when you look from the top down.

That means that when light hits the structure, some light is reflected by each layer of fibres in such a way that the light bouncing back is amplified — a concept known as constructive interference — to produce remarkably strong colours. The result is very shiny — shinier than any other living thing on the planet. Just don't bother eating them, because apparently they contain virtually no nutritional content whatsoever. [PNAS via Not Exactly Rocket Science]


Comments

    but do they taste good?

      +1
      who cares about the nutrient content, will it kill me if I eat one?

      That's what I was curious to ask!

    Saw some here in Tassi, on a bush walk.

      No you didn't. It's an African plant.

      http://biocache.ala.org.au/occurrences/taxa/urn:lsid:catalogueoflife.org:taxon:dd2345c6-29c1-102b-9a4a-00304854f820:col20110201

    Oh no, the surface light diffusion and specularity might be seen as infiringing on Apples trademarks for the iPhone. Call the lawyers!

      Are you the person that posts this same dumb comment in almost every story? Or just one of the many?

    Apparently you can eat them, but they are " practically a dry seed-filled husk". It doesnt sound that interesting to eat so why bother. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2012/09/10/shiny-fruit-pointillist-pixellated/

      I would bother because it's so SHINY!!! Ooh, shiny :o)

      "I ate the shiniest living thing on the planet"

      That's why I'd bother.

    Bowerbirds would go *NUTS* for that plant.

    The official berry of the 'Return Firefly to TV movement' shiny

    Err... butterflies wings anyone.

      Err - no I don't like the taste of them.

      I assume you a trying to make out butterfly wings are shinier and that these scientists are of course complete idiots and didn't actually check what the shiniest living things were we knew about, before making this announcement. Care to offer an example of a shinier butterfly wing? I know of none with such a finish and I worked on butterflies for a few years studying their structure.

        Did you study with your eyes closed?

      http://www.sciencephoto.com/media/371388/enlarge

      Lazy example.
      First one I found without trying.

        Oh and this,

        http://phys.org/news/2011-04-beetle-bling-optical-secrets-metallic.html

        I feel like Charlie Sheen.

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