Some species of the Tarantula, your favorite big hairy spider, tend to have a deep cobalt shade of blue. Interestingly, this color is not produced by pigments but by nano structures on the animal's hairy body. Structural colors instead of pigmented colors aren't unusual in nature. You could think of bright colored insects and birds as examples. However, most structure colors in nature tend to be iridescent, which means that they change when viewed from different angles. Structure colors that remain the same under different angles, such as seen on tarantulas, are quite rare.
The iridescence of structure colors is a problem for using it in industrial products such as paint. Therefor, taming iridescence would open up a host of new possibilities. That explains why researchers are so keenly interested in structure colors and tarantulas in particular.
Bill Hsiung, a postgraduate student in biology at the University of Akron in Ohio, studied the nano structures of tarantulas and published a paper recently in collaboration with some colleagues.
"We discovered not just one kind of nanostructure but at least two or three different kinds of nanostructures that produce the same blue colors," Hsiung said. "Previously only one kind of nanostructure had been recorded as producing blue color in tarantulas, but we found that there are other types."
The tarantula's blue hues could inspire new, non-iridescent structure colors, according to Hsiung, who noted that these colors would not only be brighter and less likely to fade than pigment-based colors, they'd also be better for the environment.
"We can decrease waste and use more eco-friendly materials to produce structure colors, unlike the current dyes." Hsiung said