COLOURS..COLOURS

One of the most important features of the multicoloured feathers of birds is that they are lifeless structures. The reason why a feather maintains its colour exactly, even after it is shed, is that a fully developed feather is completely lifeless.

Rich colour diversity in birds is basically due to the presence of pigments in the feathers, which were stored during the initial development phases of the feather, or the light shifts which occur depending on the structural characteristics of the feathers.
Since these formations, which are made up of the substance keratin, are soon worn down by environmental conditions, they are regularly renewed. Yet, each time, the bird regains its colourful feathers. This is because the feathers of birds continue to grow until they fully reach the necessary length, and the characteristic colour and pattern of that specific kind.

Due to their different structure, feathers can have an appearance similar to that obtained by a glass prism breaking light into different colours. Colours that are formed through refraction of light in this way are brighter and more metallic than those that are coloured by pigments. The colours of these feathers shift from blue to green, and from orange to red. Generally, the green, blue, and metallic colours in birds are formed through the reflection and refraction of light. Yet, some of the colours of feathers come from pigments. David Attenborough, The Life of Birds, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1998, p.158

There are mainly three kinds of pigments in birds. These are melanin pigments that produce black, brown or dull yellow, lipochrome pigments that produce red, yellow or orange, and carotenoids. Blue, green and some other bright colours in birds are created by microscopic bubbles in the keratin of the feathers that refract the light. The feathers absorbing the full spectrum of light and only reflecting blue, on the other hand, creates the blue colour of some birds. David Attenborough, The Life of Birds, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1998, p.158

Hormones also play an important role in colour change in birds. The colour difference between the male and female members of some species is caused by sex hormones. The different colourings and feather shapes of cocks and hens, for example, depend on the oestrogen hormone.

The colours of birds are important for their adaptation to their habitat as well as for male and female members' recognition of each other and the males' courtship of females in the mating season. In addition, pigments, which give colour to feathers, enhance the strength of the feathers, store energy coming from the sun and prevent harmful ultraviolet rays from entering the body.

Butterflies

Formation of colour in the wings of butterflies is quite interesting. The light is reflected through the scales on the wings of a butterfly forming colours which are "actually non-existent" but which display an extraordinary symmetry and beauty. We just said that they are "actually non-existent", you wonder why?

Butterflies are known for the beauty of their wings that have surfaces that are relatively much wider than their thorax. How, then, do these spectacular patterns and colours in the wings of butterflies come about?


A close-up of the scales on the wings of butterflies

Butterflies have a pair of membranous wings, which are in fact transparent. Since these are covered with scales of varying thickness, the transparency of the membranous wings goes unnoticed. These scales increase the aerodynamic qualities of the butterflies' wings, and give them their colour. The scales, which are so delicate as to fall from their places as soon as they are touched, have sharply-pointed ends sticking into the wings of the butterfly. In this way, the scales remain attached without falling off. Each of these tiny scales, which seem like overlapping shingles on a roof, take on a colour either by chemical pigments or by its structure which refracts the light falling onto it into rainbow colours as does a soap bubble.( Ranger Rick, May 1999) In addition, laboratory research has shown that different colours depend on different chemical substances. The by-products of a colouring substance called pteridine, for example, create the pink, white, and yellow colours that are commonly seen in butterflies. Melanin, which is a very common colouring substance, exists in the black spots in the wings. Interestingly, the colours in the wings of butterflies are not always as they seem to be. For example, green scales are in reality a mixture of black and yellow scales. Recent research conducted on butterfly wings has demonstrated that pigments are synthesised in the scales and that the enzymes necessary for melanin production lie in the upper skin of the scales. Colouring substances are not the only cause of these highly volatile colours in butterflies. The structure and the order of the scales on the wings of the butterfly cause various tricks of light, such as reflection, refraction, and finally the formation of colours of dazzling beauty. For instance, Stilpnotio Salicis butterflies have semi-transparent scales, which contain bubbles. Although there is no colouring substance in these scales, the light passing through the scales give the butterfly a satin-like appearance.


The large Indonesian butterfly (left) has two large spots resembling eyes on its wings, which it uses to startle its enemies. It is a satisfactory defence for these butterflies. Other species such as Monarch butterflies, on the other hand, take recourse to other methods (right). With their dark orange wings with black patterns, they send "bad taste" warning to their enemies.

The surface of the scales on the Argynnis butterfly's wings is unbelievably soft, which creates silvery reflections. In some butterflies, the different arrangement of two overlapping rows of scales may also create different reflections of light, for example, causing a butterfly to look blue instead of black or brown.

When we examine the structure of butterfly wings even by considering their colourings alone, we come across lots of wonders. The existence of such an extraordinary beauty is undoubtedly evidence of the exalted might and endless artistry of Allah, Who has created all these.

It also must be stated that besides their being created as adornment, the colours and patterns on the wings of butterflies have many other crucial functions for these creatures.

False Eyes of Butterflies


In many butterflies, there are round dark-coloured patterns that remind us of the eyes of a large creature. These eyes, which again consist of coloured scales on the wings, embody a most important defence mechanism for butterflies. Butterflies keep their wings closed when they rest. If they meet an enemy, or are disturbed by a slight touch, the wings instantly open, and large, bright, intensely coloured eyespots on the wing surface appear. In this way, the required message is delivered to the predator.


The butterflies seen in the photographs utilise camouflage both with colour and pattern. Allah created the eye motifs on the wings, not lacking even the sparkles in the eye.

Camouflage of Butterflies

Butterflies' camouflaging skills are as impressive as their false eyes. It is as if camouflaging butterflies see the colour of the bush, make an evaluation of the environment, analyse it, and imitate the colour of the bush with the colours they produce in their bodies' highly effective systems. Another species, aware of the tastes of its predator, gives warning signals to it by imitating colours that repel it by suggesting that the butterfly would taste bad or even be poisonous. It is by no means possible for a butterfly alone to perform these acts. We can make it clearer with an example:

Suppose that you are trying to produce a colour in a laboratory. If you have little knowledge of this subject, you will not be able to achieve the definite result that you wish, no matter how advanced your laboratory equipment or facilities. Then consider trying to achieve the quality of colours such as those of the butterflies, which, by developing the same colours and patterns as the environment, become almost invisible. You would not be able to develop even a single meaningful colour. The situation being so, it would be certainly an unscientific and irrational approach to claim that this glorious system in butterflies has come into existence by chance free of conscious design.

If there is a design somewhere, there is also a designer. The flawless design on the earth belongs to Allah, the Compassionate. What falls to people with reason is to reflect upon Allah's attribute of creating in detail. In Surat an-Nahl, Allah states as follows:
(He has made subservient to you) also the things of varying colours He has created for you in the earth. There is certainly a Sign in that for people who pay heed. (Surat an-Nahl: 13)


The colours of the butterflies seen in the photographs are in fact very striking. However, both live in safety due to the harmonious they blend in with the substratum on which they pose.

Black Spots that Absorb Light

In some butterflies, especially on the parts of their wings that are near to the body, there are large, dark coloured spots that consist of scales. These spots, placed on both wings symmetrically, have a very important function for butterflies. Butterflies make use of these spots in order to reach the body temperature that is required to fly. How do they do this?

Scales have the properties of modifying heat to minimum or maximum levels depending on their colours. We have all seen butterflies opening and closing their wings under the sun as if they are trying to find a certain angle. The black spots in their wings help those butterflies, which try to attract sunlight by this movement. A butterfly that needs to warm up its body opens and closes its wings so that the sunlight falls directly on these spots, and therefore warms up its body.

Butterflies that live in open lands exposed to sun have lighter colours while those that live in wooded areas have darker colours.
Some species of Lepidoptera butterflies have no scales on their wings, cannot reflect light, and so are transparent. Though it is possible to see these butterflies while they fly, it is almost impossible to locate them when they alight somewhere. This provides a perfect protection for the butterfly. Just as all other creatures, butterflies have also been created with the systems with which they can meet all their needs. Moreover, all these are interdependent systems in which one cannot exist without the other.
Like all other creatures in the universe, Allah created butterflies too with all the details they possess and endowed them with all the systems they need.


The brown colour and spots under the wings of the blue Morpho butterflies provide an excellent means of camouflage for hiding in the bush. Butterflies may all of a sudden become invisible in the bush.

Colours of the Undersea


Life under the surface of the sea is very different from on land. All the features of sea-dwelling creatures are organised in such a way as to enable them to live in water in the easiest way possible. Humans cannot see in water as well as do fish, because the human eye does not have the features that would allow it to attain sharp eyesight underwater. The human eye does not have a lens system such as that of the fish, and is not spherical and hard like that of a fish, so it does not have as sharp sight underwater as the fish. It cannot allow as precisely as fish do for foreshortening of distances in the water due to refraction, as it cannot estimate the refraction of light in water.

Allah has created every living being with the most suitable characteristics for the environment it inhabits. Creatures living under the sea constitute only a small part of the examples of Allah's artistry in creation. Allah has no partner in creation and everything is under His control.

There is no other god besides Allah. Allah - He is the Almighty, the All-Wise. (Surah Al 'Imran: 62)


A shrimp moves undisturbed along the surface of a sea anemone. The transparency of these small crustaceans is extraordinary, because in most transparent animals some major part of the body still remains visible. For example, most cannot manage to conceal their digestive systems and the food contained inside them. In some species, only the tail and a part of the pincers are coloured. These small details of colour are useful in enabling the shrimp to "disappear"; the contrast between the transparent parts and the colourful markings is so pronounced that would-be predators are drawn to the markings themselves and are not able to perceive the over-all outline of the animal.


The photograph on the left belongs to a rock lobster. This lobster, a perfect example of harmony in colour and design, is adorned with shades of red.43Above is a coral. Billions of corals lie together. They combine with each other by special secretions, and form a limestone skeleton. On this skeleton, they secrete a coloured substance: red, pink, and occasionally black or white.

In the depths of the sea, starting from 200 metres below the surface, there is no light at all. However, when reaching the bottom of the oceans, which are even deeper than the height of Everest, we come across a multicoloured world. The striped anemone fish, which live in anemone plants, seen in the photograph above, are also members of this world.

Sea cochlea (Nudibranches) is one of the most interesting animals of the underwater world. With their interesting designs and extraordinary colours, these animals are a species of cochlea without a shell. On the pictures above are examples of a few species. These creatures, which have soft bodies, are protected by a strong poison. Their striking colour warns their predators that they are very poisonous. They obtain their poison from the plants they eat.

The body of the seahorse is covered with plaque-shaped bones. Seahorses are not very good at swimming. For this reason, they live by clinging to corals. Since seahorses can change their colour quickly, they are easily protected from their enemies.

One of the most curious and useful features of molluscs is their so-called "cloak" - the tissue that covers their bodies and forms a "second shell". As the photograph reveals, the cloak slowly covers the shell and interrupts the chromatic uniformity that could betray the animal's presence.

Spider crabs are remarkably diverse in size and shape. They range from gigantic Japanese Spider Crab, with metre-long legs, to the miniature coral-reef species seen above. Their patterns blend remarkably well will the poly-studded texture of their hosts.


Scorpion fish live along the seabed in temperate or tropical zones and never venture out to open sea. They are carnivorous and feed on smaller fish. The long, fan-shaped pectoral fins are an excellent deterrent to the fish's enemies, and the red-and-white stripes make it difficult for their prey to see them against a backdrop of coral. Scorpion fish have a very colourful appearance but can easily become invisible among the corals, which are also very colourful.



The members of the Soleidea species, such as soles and rhombuses (above), are extremely mimetic. Their benthic (i.e., bottom-dwelling) nature forces them to imitate the substratum as much as possible. The crocodile fish (below) uses its colour to hide from predators.

Crinoids, seen on the photograph, are sea tulips in the shape of lilies. They have long, thin, flower-like spiked arms. There is poisonous mucus on their arms. They absorb the oxygen in water through their arms by filtering it.

An octopus, photographed at night, makes its skin flare to appear larger. This iridescent green colour is seen almost exclusively after dark. Some species can become at one with the deep-sea underwater patterns.

The mantis shrimp (seen on tle left) is only one of the creatures of the undersea that has an interesting appearance and bright colours. Its protruding eyes are among the most complex eyes in nature. (Seen on the right), are painted prawns, which live amid the spines of a poisonous sea urchin.

 

 


Design of Colours in Plants


If one does not reflect, one cannot see the miraculous characteristics of the living beings around one. So long as one does not think about how a butterfly with its membranous wings flies, how the flowers one sees have such diversity of colour, how the top branches of hundreds of metres tall trees remain green, one cannot grasp the subtleties of these. Even the extraordinary artistry in a flower may not capture one's attention.

As we examined throughout this book, however, perfect artistry is clearly displayed in all living beings from insects to birds, from plants to sea creatures. Certainly this artistry belongs to Allah Who is the Creator of all living things.

Let us think about plants, fruits, vegetables, flowers, and trees. Plants, each having different colours, fragrances and tastes, are evidence of the artistry in creation of Allah. Each plant you see around you or know from books has colours and patterns that are exclusive to its kind. The reproductive process of each is different, the proportions of nectar they contain and their fragrances are all different. Let us think about roses. There are red, white, yellow, orange, pink, white edged, double-coloured, even roses with wavelike colours. Certainly, it would be great blindness for a man who sees all this not to feel admiration for and not to glimpse the endless might of Allah, Who is the Creator of all these flowers. In the Qur'an, Allah refers to those who fail to appreciate the evidence of the creation they see as follows:

How many Signs there are in the heavens and earth! Yet they pass them by turning away from them. Most of them do not have faith in Allah without associating others with Him. (Surah Yusuf: 105-106)

Have you ever thought about why plants are green?
As is obvious, the colours prevailing in the world of plants are green and shades of green. Chlorophyll is the main substance producing green. Chlorophyll, a very important substance, is a pigment contained in the chloroplasts scattered out in the cytoplasm of the plant cell. These pigments absorb light coming from the sun easily, but only reflect the colour green. In addition to giving the colour green to leaves, this feature also causes the fulfilment of a crucial process called "photosynthesis".

In photosynthesis, plants utilise sunlight, which consists of the combination of different colours. One of the most important properties of the colours in sunlight is that their energy levels are different from one another. This assortment of colour called the spectrum, which is obtained by the refraction of colours in a prism for example, has red and yellow tones at one end, and blue and violet tones at the other end. Colours with the highest level of energy are those colours at the blue end of the spectrum.
The difference in the energy levels between colours is very important for plants, because they need large amounts of energy to make photosynthesis. For this reason, during photosynthesis, plants absorb those sunrays of the highest energy levels towards the ultraviolet end of the spectrum, i.e. violet and blue, as well as the colours that are more towards the infra-red (heat) end of the spectrum, i.e. red, orange and yellow. Leaves carry out all these processes through the chlorophyll pigment existing in the chloroplasts. Temel Britannica Ansiklopedisi, Vol. 7, p.16

For a plant to photosynthesise, the energy levels of the light particles that are absorbed by the substance chlorophyll must be adequate. The process of photosynthesis begins when a plant, with the energy it receives from light particles, breaks the water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen molecules. Hydrogen reacts with carbon in the carbon dioxide gas to form the sap of the plant, which is essential for the plant to survive. In other words, the plant produces its own food. Unused oxygen, on the other hand, is released to the air. Most of the oxygen we breathe in the atmosphere is produced that way.

As a result of the process of photosynthesis in plants, they produce carbohydrates, one of the main food sources for other living things. The substances produced during photosynthesis are extremely important for plants themselves as well as for animals and humans, because plants are the main source of food of all living things on earth.

As we have seen, besides providing an aesthetic appearance, the green colour of plants is also extremely crucial for the survival of both plants and other living creatures. Allah makes the substance chlorophyll a cause for the nourishment of plants and the sustenance of all other living creatures.


The dashed and solid white curves below illustrate the absorption spectrum of chlorophylls a and b. The black curve at the top illustrates the effectiveness of various wavelengths of light in powering photosynthesis. The figure reveals how closely the combined absorption spectra of chlorophylls a and b resemble the action spectrum of photosynthesis. 51

How do the Different Colours in Plants Come About?


As mentioned before, the colour reflected by each object depends on the pigment molecules that object has. The basic pigment molecule in green plants is the substance "chlorophyll" as earlier stated. In addition to this, there are other pigments producing other colours in plants, and these different kinds of pigments form the extraordinary colour diversity we see in plants.
For example, in addition to chlorophyll, there are also carotenoid pigments in plants. Some of these pigments, which we have examined in detail before, are yellow and give colour to ears of corn, lemons, goldenrod and sunflowers. Other carotenoids are much more red than yellow; these are found in beets, tomatoes, roses, and carrots. Carotenoids are also present in green leaves. Then one might wonder: why do leaves not look red, yellow or orange but are mostly in shades of green? The reason is that the green of the chlorophyll is so strong that other colours cannot be seen. . Franklyn Branley, Color, From Rainbows to Lasers, Thomas Y. Crowell Comp., New York, p.37

However, changes occur in the autumn. As the hours of daylight become shorter, plants stop making chlorophyll, and the strength of the pigments producing the colour green decreases, causing the green colour of leaves to fade. The carotenoids, becoming visible now, colour the leaves brown, yellow, and red.

Also in the autumn, a group of pigments called "anthocyanins" form in the outer layers of certain leaves. These pigments, which are bright red and blue, combine with the others to give leaves the crimson and purple hues we occasionally see. Franklyn Branley, Color, From Rainbows to Lasers, Thomas Y. Crowell Comp., New York, p.38

Information about all the pigments giving colour to a plant is coded in the DNA of that plant. For this reason, a plant species bears the same characteristics no matter where on the earth. For example, everywhere in the world the colour of oranges is the same; their shape and the structure of their peels are the same. The colour of the transparent membrane, which lies inside the peel of the orange, and which constitute little sacs filled with orange coloured, perfumed sugared water, never change anywhere in the world. Bananas are everywhere yellow, tomatoes are red, and roses, violets, and carnations are all the same colours wherever they are. Wherever you go in the world, you will not see a naturally growing strawberry with a different colour. Everywhere in the world, the DNA of strawberries contains the characteristics that make them the strawberry we know. The colour, smell and taste of a strawberry are always the same. It is a unique, unparalleled order. Certainly, it cannot be claimed that such a system has come into existence by sheer chance.

The owner of this matchless artistry that prevails all over the world is Allah, Who has infinite wisdom. Allah has power over all things.

Have you ever thought how such diversity of colour comes about in plants although they all grow in the same soil and are watered with the same water?

In Surat ar-Ra'd, Allah draws attention to the fact that although all watered with the same water, different crops come out of the soil:

In the earth there are diverse regions side by side and gardens of grapes and cultivated fields, and palm-trees sharing one root and others with individual roots, all watered with the same water. And We make some things better to eat than others. There are Signs in that for people who use their intellect. (Surat ar-Ra'd: 4)

As Allah has drawn to our attention, let us ponder, by looking at the vegetables and fruits around us, how different crops come out of the same soil. For example, let us look at melons, watermelons, kiwis, bananas, cherries, eggplants, tomatoes, grapes, peaches, and green beans. When you peel the dark yellow skin of a banana, out of it comes a banana of a lighter yellow with its matchless fragrance. The red, green or yellow peel of an apple has a smooth sheen. Humans cannot imitate the quality of the taste and smell, an aroma particular to it, of its sweet juice.

Then, the question may occur to one: how do all those flowers, trees, vegetables and fruits have so many different colours although they come out of the same arid soil? This is evidence of the endless knowledge of Allah and His creating without any preceding model. It is impossible for man to create a new colour. All colours produced by people are only copies of the originals existing in nature. However, Allah is the Originator, and the creation of all the colours describing the living creatures on earth is His. Allah's artistry in creation is matchless. One of the names of Allah, the All-Powerful, is al-Musawwir - the One Who forms His creatures in different forms. Allah creates everything He creates in the most perfect forms.

He is Allah - the Creator, the Maker, the Giver of Form. To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names. Everything in the heavens and earth glorifies Him. He is the Almighty, the All-Wise. (Surat al-Hashr: 24)


In nature, there is a diversity of colour that changes according to the seasons. Mountains, trees, lakes, rivers, in short, all nature is evidence of the unparalleled artistry in colour of Allah.

 


 


Rainbows in which the colour spectrum can be seen in a neat order are in fact an illusion of colour. Rainbows are formed by sunlight refracted through raindrops.

The colurs and appearance of all plants on the earth have been created in such a way as to appeal to the human soul. In fruits and vegetables, there is a matchless diversity of colour. On the other hand, when we think of flowers and trees we again see the same aesthetic appearance and diversity of colour.

There is also a totally unequalled colour and pattern design in flowers. Each of the hundreds of thousand kinds of flowers has been furnished with particular characteristics exclusive to its kind. Today, the perfumes, patterns and colours produced by men are all imitations of their original counterparts in nature. For instance, the purple colour of the leaves of violets, which are soft like velvet, and the smoothness of the surface of their leaves are matchless. Velvet fabrics are produced in imitation of the texture of violets but a similar quality can never be achieved.

With this approach, no matter what plant we examine on the earth, the conclusion we arrive at is that it is a perfect creation. Allah, Who has no partners in creation, creates plants for men with different tastes, fragrances, colours and forms. What falls to us is to reflect on the signs Allah creates and to be grateful.  





All of the fruits and vegetables you see in these pictures, which have different shapes and colours, grow in the same dry soil and are watered with the same water. Yet, each of them has a colour, taste and smell, particular to its kind. Allah has created each one of them uniquely and bestowed them upon us.