Color helps plants and animals in many ways. The color of fur, feathers, scales, or skin helps some animals hide. Color can help animals stand out. Bold colors can send messages: "Eat me!" or "Feed me!" "Come here!" or "Go away!" Color can provide plants with food and protect animals from being harmed by too much sun.
One main source of color is a category of chemicals called pigments. A rainbow of light waves of different lengths makes up sunlight. Pigments absorb some parts of the rainbow and reflect others. We see the colors a pigment reflects.
Objects can cause light waves from different parts of the rainbow to travel in different directions. The color we see as a result is called structural color. For example, the male ruby-throated hummingbird has a bright red throat, or chin. Tiny bubbles in the feathers under the bird's chin change the path of red light waves in a way that makes it brighter to our eyes. The bubbles change the path of other colors in ways that make them harder to see. Sometimes the red light sparkles like a dark red stone called a ruby.
Traits that help living things survive and reproduce are called adaptations. Let's explore nature's rainbow of colors and some of the ways in which color serves as an adaptation.