Communicating with colors: the most colorful species of the animal world

There are many animal species that have bright and colorful colors, but what is their function? Color can serve as a means of communication for many animals: it can warn of their own danger, serve to disguise themselves from predators, to imitate another species or to find a partner. A journey to discover the most colorful animals in the world.

The world is undoubtedly in color and, if you stop to look at a landscape, you will realize that it is really difficult to get bored and look away. In fact, nothing that is part of nature is monotonous and when it seems to be becoming so suddenly a bird takes flight staining the sky with yellow, blue, brown and many other colors: some animal species in fact have the most varied shades , but who are the most colorful animals in the world and what is the use of being one? Why do some animals have bright colors? Color in the animal world is a form of communication for those species that, of course, live in an illuminated environment and can show it. In fact, there are animals, such as those that live underground, in the abyssal sea depths or in caves, which have not evolved bright colors and in some cases have not evolved at all. And the reason is easy to understand: in total darkness they wouldn’t do him much good. The olm (Proteus anguinus) for example, which lives in the dark depths of caves, is a small blind amphibian devoid of colored pigments, characteristics that it compensates for with a very developed sense of smell and hearing. For other species, on the other hand, color can be a very important means of communication, but to say what exactly? Some animals have evolved very evident and gaudy colors which they use as an “alert” signal for predators and to communicate to them that they are toxic and therefore it is better to stay away. Others, on the other hand, use them to be smart: they are not toxic but they pretend to be by imitating the same colors, sometimes even the same behaviors, of another truly poisonous species, so as not to bring predators closer. This is the case, for example, of the false coral snake (Lampropeltis triangulum), a harmless species, which has the same coloration of the poisonous coral snake (Micrurus fulvius), so much so that it is not very easy to distinguish them. Another very important function of color is courtship – showing off proudly showing bright colors to a potential partner can be a good way to get them to be together. Many species of birds are well aware of this, where usually the males have beautiful bright colors to attract the females, while the latter can afford duller colors because after all they decide who to mate with. The more the male is colored the more he is well liked by the females: the color can in fact indicate that he is well fed, is in good health and therefore has strong genes to pass on to his children. Furthermore, some species, in order to conquer the female, must carry bulky burdens that certainly do not facilitate their survival. This is the case, for example, of the peacock which has developed a large tail, much loved by females, both for its iridescent colors and because it has a strong intrinsic meaning. In fact it is as if the male peacock said to the female “if I can carry this cumbersome feature with me and survive it means that my genes are really the best you can find”.

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