Nanostructures Make Viper Skin Ultra-Black and Stealthy
by Laura Poppick
From even a short distance, this West African Gaboon viper looks just like a pile of dead leaves. New research shows that the highly-camouflaged snake owes its elusiveness to nanostructures in its black scales.
The velvety-black patches on this snake’s back are so dark and absorb so much light, they look like gaps in the snake’s body. This illusion allows the lurkers to dissolve into leaf litter as they wait for prey on the rainforest floor.
To determine what makes these scales appear so black, a team of German scientists examined the snake’s skin under a scanning electron microscope (SEM), and found differences in the nanostructures of dark and pale scales that explain the high contrast, the team reports today in Scientific Reports…