This beetle looks like it's been given a lick with a paintbrush—but in fact, it's covered in paper-thin scales that are brilliant white, and reflect more light than anything of a similar thickness that can be made by humans.
These critters—Cyphochilus to their friends—are covered in scales made from complex networks of chitin filaments. Chitin is like cellulose, and normally if reflects light poorly, so doesn't usually appear white. But new analysis reveals that the scales on these beetles have fibers of the stuff arranged in such a away that they reflect light of all colors anisotropically—that is, in only one direction. That means that when you look at it, you see all colors of light equally—making the surface appear a vivid white.
The scales are also ultra-thin, providing the bright white color with little weight. You can expect to hear of a range of new coatings inspired by these structures, then, which seek to provide the brightest white with super-thin coatings. Someone better tell Apple. [Scientific Reports via New Scientist]
Image by 林 敬偉 under Creative Commons licens