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Shiniest Living Thing On Earth
September 12, 2012 8:24 AM   Subscribe

"A spectacular African fruit is more intensely coloured than any previously known biological substance. The fruit's metallic blue hue is produced not by a pigment, but by specialized structures in its cells, concludes a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences." Scientists believe the shininess of the fruit evolved to attract birds to it, as it holds no nutritional value.
posted by stoneweaver (40 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
So basically it's a tiny organic mirrorball.

COOOOOOOOOOL!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:26 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


That trope of saying something evolved "to do" something always annoys me. It's backwards. The plant didn't decide to become blue to attract the birds, the birds spread the seeds of the more blue ones because it looked like an edible plant.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 8:27 AM on September 12, 2012 [14 favorites]


Dear Science,

Can we please call them "glitterberries"? You named shit after Mark Knopfler and Gary Larson, you can do me this favor. Thanks.

Also, from the Wikipedia entry:

Despite having no nutritional value, birds are attracted to the appearance of of the berries. Birds will sometimes decorate their nest with the berries, helping spread the seeds in the process.

There's a fable in there somewhere, but I can't quite pick it out.
posted by griphus at 8:30 AM on September 12, 2012 [10 favorites]


Speaking as a bird, Yeah, I'd eat that.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:33 AM on September 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Pollia condensata Blue.
posted by radwolf76 at 8:33 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Glover says that “this strategy is brilliant

i see what she did there.
posted by chavenet at 8:35 AM on September 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


I want to eat it.
posted by TwelveTwo at 8:36 AM on September 12, 2012


So basically avian intelligence is equally susceptible to wanting useless glittery objects for reasons of glitteryness as human intelligence. I've think lost a bit of respect for the bird brain.
Nevermind, ooo, shiny, pretty *grabby talons*...
posted by Cold Lurkey at 8:38 AM on September 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Someone needs to productize this to leverage the synergies of this new chromatic paradigm!
posted by blue_beetle at 8:38 AM on September 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


*takes in a sharp breath, raises eye brow*

I want one.
posted by The Whelk at 8:43 AM on September 12, 2012


Ever since this FPP, "oooh glittery blue thing" makes me think DANGER DANGER WILL ROBINSON.
posted by sallybrown at 8:46 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


They taste like burning.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:48 AM on September 12, 2012


These will look awesome scattered across my granola.

They are edible....right?
posted by Thorzdad at 8:48 AM on September 12, 2012


You know, cheesecake also has no nutritional value, I am pretty sure, and it is delicious! We need glitterberry cheesecake!
posted by munchingzombie at 8:48 AM on September 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


Insects do this as well. This is how butterfly wings work, for example.
posted by bonehead at 8:49 AM on September 12, 2012


So basically it's a tiny organic mirrorball.

COOOOOOOOOOL!


mirroballs?

look at them shine
posted by ninjew at 8:50 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


We need glitterberry cheesecake!

Mom says if we decorate our beds with cake again she's making us live with grandpa on the Army base.
posted by griphus at 8:51 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


edible gold is a thing. Just saying.
posted by The Whelk at 8:52 AM on September 12, 2012


edible gold is a thing. Just saying.

So it drinkable gold. That doesn't mean it's a good thing. (In fact, it is a terrible, terrible thing.)

They are edible....right?

They apparently have no nutritional value, but they don't appear to be poisonous, either.
posted by asnider at 8:56 AM on September 12, 2012


Like Pinkberry!
posted by griphus at 8:57 AM on September 12, 2012


Has no nutritional value, but birds want it anyway...
So it's iFruit (ducks)
posted by hexatron at 9:00 AM on September 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Coloration strategies in peacock feathers (pdf white paper): "The brilliant coloration found in the feathers of the peacock is an example of structural coloration. Melanin rods, stacked with air pockets in between, make up a 2D photonic crystal. Differences in color are achieved by changing the lattice spacing of the rods."
posted by bz at 9:01 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


These will look awesome scattered across my granola bower.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:03 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


The plant is found across Africa, but the fruit has no nutritional value: it contains only seeds, with no pulp.

George Carlin can continue to rest in peace, as there is still no blue food.
posted by borkencode at 9:18 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the pollia condensata
that were in
the lab

and which
you were probably
saving
for anti-counterfeiting and anti-forgery applications.

Forgive me
they were attractive
so iridescent
and so tasteless
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:21 AM on September 12, 2012 [25 favorites]


I wonder if these will be appearing in flower shops. They are very beautiful. Whoever can cultivate them probably stands to make some money.
posted by PigAlien at 9:28 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


CheeseDigestsAll:That trope of saying something evolved "to do" something always annoys me. It's backwards. The plant didn't decide to become blue to attract the birds, the birds spread the seeds of the more blue ones because it looked like an edible plant.

So insidious, this sort of mis-stating: the article itself has the somewhat more subtle yet entirely related "Plants have evolved many amazing features" version.
posted by progosk at 9:39 AM on September 12, 2012


Are there bower birds in the area where these berries grow? Because bower birds would be ALL OVER that shit.

Early on in my relationship with my husband, we stumbled across a bower bird documentary narrated by David Attenborough that, in part, followed the exploits of one hapless bower bird whose bower kept getting wrecked, by falling trees and unexpected rains and snakes and an entire column of ants. And then once he finally rebuilt it, he didn't have enough treasures and none of the ladies would give him the time of day. It sounds sad but it was done in a very funny fashion, we laughed until tears were running down our faces. I haven't been able to find it since, but now whenever I see a collection of shiny blue things I keep thinking of that poor sonofabitch bower bird.
posted by KathrynT at 9:52 AM on September 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


Insects do this as well. This is how butterfly wings work, for example.

Flutterby ==> butterfly

glitterball ==> bittergall

And I bet they do taste terrible.
posted by jamjam at 10:06 AM on September 12, 2012


I heard about this the other day on NPR. AMAZING!
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:17 AM on September 12, 2012


The buttercup reflectivity research is very British because there's a ye olde childhood thing where you hold a buttercup under your throat and if the shine is reflected ( you need a pal observing ) , it means you love eating butter
I suppose if you do the same with these, it means you love eating glitter then
posted by Bwithh at 10:20 AM on September 12, 2012


KathrynT, you read my mind, right down to that Attenborough doc.
posted by rtha at 10:52 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Citizens, behold! New blue crunchberries!
posted by Sleeper at 12:05 PM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's a shame that this AskMe is closed.
posted by unliteral at 7:01 PM on September 12, 2012


I am absolutely positive that we had both black and iridescent varieties of this plant growing in weedy areas of South Alabama, because, stoned high school nature walks, you know?
posted by halfbuckaroo at 7:10 PM on September 12, 2012


The article says the color lasts for years. I wonder if they could be used to make jewelry, either drilled as beads or somehow set (bezel around the equator maybe)?

(PRETTY PRETTY SHINY THING WANT.)
posted by Lexica at 8:41 PM on September 12, 2012


This hit a nerve when even NPR makes this joke - "A physicist in Great Britain was looking at the reflectivity of tulips and buttercups (yes, scientists get paid to do that sort of thing)."

True, they link to Cambridge's Biomimetics + NanoPhotonics after the joke, but I'm wondering if it's counterproductive for the public's perception of science funding?
posted by porpoise at 9:12 PM on September 12, 2012


Is it possible to grow them anywhere in the US? They'd look great in a garden.
posted by mike3k at 10:17 PM on September 12, 2012


edible gold is a thing. Just saying.

My new plan is to eat a bunch of edible gold, and then confuse the fuck out of my alchemist friends the next morning.
posted by Dr Dracator at 4:09 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd never thought about it before this example, but I wonder why structural color seems to be less common in plants than in animals. Or if we just haven't studied plants enough.
posted by away for regrooving at 10:55 PM on September 13, 2012


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