Why Is Blue So Rare In Nature?

Duh, except for the sky… and the ocean…
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Among living things, the color blue is oddly rare. Blue rocks, blue sky, blue water, sure. But blue animals? They are few and far between. And the ones that do make blue? They make it in some very strange and special ways compared to other colors. In this video, we’ll look at some very cool butterflies to help us learn how living things make blue, and why this beautiful hue is so rare in nature.

Smithsonian Institution – National Museum of Natural History
Bob Robbins, Ph.D. – Curator of Lepidoptera
Juan Pablo Hurtado Padilla – Microscope Educator

Richard Prum, Ph.D. – Yale University
Vinothan Manoharan, Ph.D. – Harvard University


Bagnara, J. T., Fernandez, P. J., & Fujii, R. (2007). On the blue coloration of vertebrates. Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research, 20(1), 14-26.

Cuthill, I. C., Allen, W. L., Arbuckle, K., Caspers, B., Chaplin, G., Hauber, M. E., … & Mappes, J. (2017). The biology of color. Science, 357(6350), eaan0221.

Kinoshita, S., Yoshioka, S., & Miyazaki, J. (2008). Physics of structural colors. Reports on Progress in Physics, 71(7), 076401.

Kinoshita, S. (2008). Structural colors in the realm of nature. World Scientific.

Prum, R. O., Quinn, T., & Torres, R. H. (2006). Anatomically diverse butterfly scales all produce structural colours by coherent scattering. Journal of Experimental Biology, 209(4), 748-765.

Vukusic, P., & Sambles, J. R. (2003). Photonic structures in biology. Nature, 424(6950), 852-855.

Vukusic, P., Sambles, J. R., Lawrence, C. R., & Wootton, R. J. (1999). Quantified interference and diffraction in single Morpho butterfly scales. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 266(1427), 1403-1411.


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20 thoughts on “Why Is Blue So Rare In Nature?”

  1. You never notice how rare blue is, until you do, and then you (don't) see it *everywhere*.

    Leave a comment and let me know what you thought of this week's video! And commence the blue-pun party

  2. I saw a bunch of light blue WASPs last summer around my house. They looked like they were spray painted light, blue metallic…so alien-looking.

  3. Actually that's not true, here's a list of things which are blue in nature :
    Blood of hermit crab
    Sea water appears to be blue due to refraction but still it exists in nature
    Turquoise stone
    Aquamarine stone
    Eyes of Caucasians due to some genetic mutation
    Blood of hermit crab
    Fingertips and lips of a person with severe tuberculosis
    Some mosses with the ability to glow in the dark have blue colour
    Cyanobacteria or blue green algae have bluish tinge
    A person who becomes poisoned become blue colored
    A baby deficient of oxygen obtains a bluish tinge
    Petals of clitoria ternatia
    Certain mud crabs have blue colour
    A variety of krill has blue colour
    Octopus and Squids release blue coloured ink when provoked
    Blue dye is obtained from indigo plant which by itself has blue pigment
    Some cases of waardenburg syndrome may cause albanism in eyes and thus becomes blue

    These are just a few

  4. so then shouldn't it be equally hard to make a blue pigment as it is to make a green one, or any color for that matter?

  5. So if its the structure could you change someones structure so their eye color could change from whatever to blue

  6. The explanation on how animals were not able to adapt to the blue was unclear. The way it was explained also suggested that they evolved these structures on purpose, as in rationally. Making the video irrelevant to the title.



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