(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have discovered 16 species of ultra-black fish, each with a special skin that allows them to avoid detection while hunting or hide in the dark.
By absorbing 99.95% of all photons, this blacker-than-black surface creates an invisibility cloak against the dim ocean backdrop.
Even in harsh light, these creatures look like silhouettes.
“It didn’t matter how you set up the camera or the lighting — it just absorbed all the light,” says Karen Osborne, a zoologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
Osborne and her colleagues carefully analyzed the skins of 18 black fish species collected from trawls in the Gulf of Mexico and Monterey Bay, California.
All of these creatures had ultra-black appearances that reflected less than 0.6 percent of the available light, and 16 species reflected less than 0.5 percent. What’s more, this ultra-black skin has been found all over the body, and in the near-total darkness of the depths, this cloak of darkness likely evolved to absorb bioluminescent light emitted by prey or predators.
“This low reflectance puts deep sea fish on a par with the blackest known animals,” the authors write, “surpassing the darkness of ultra-black butterflies (reflectance 0.06% -0.5%) and equal to the blackest birds of paradise (0 , 05% – Reflection coefficient 0.31%)
In fact, the black skin of these fish is nearly as good as Vantablack , which absorbs 99.96% of light – once a record for the blackest material known to science.
Analyzing the structure of the incredible fish skin, the researchers found that the pigment cells were tightly packed together, with very few if any gaps, resembling the structure of chewing gum.
Understanding how this simple yet highly effective system works can help us improve our own cloaking technologies.
“Instead of building some kind of structure that traps light, if you create an absorbent pigment of the right size and shape, you can achieve the same absorption, potentially much cheaper and [make the material] much less brittle,” she says.
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