Evolution of single gyroid photonic crystals in bird feathers
Vivid, saturated structural colors are conspicuous and important features of many animals. A rich diversity of three-dimensional periodic photonic nanostructures is found in the chitinaceous exoskeletons of invertebrates. Three-dimensional photonic nanostructures have been described in bird feathers, but they are typically quasi-ordered. Here, we report bicontinuous single gyroid β-keratin and air photonic crystal networks in the feather barbs of blue-winged leafbirds ( Chloropsis cochinchinensis sensu lato ), which have evolved from ancestral quasi-ordered channel-type nanostructures. Self-assembled avian photonic crystals may serve as inspiration for multifunctional applications, as they suggest efficient, alternative routes to single gyroid synthesis at optical length scales, which has been experimentally elusive.