Sunlight slowly makes its way through the canopy, bringing light to a world in which, just a few moments ago, creatures large and small navigated shadows and darkness. Among them are animals that have learned to use both the dark and the light to impress the opposite sex: standardwings, members of the birds-of-paradise family. Their mating dance changes with the amount of available light – in a spectacular way.
As the full force of the Sun’s rays hits the forest, a world of greys becomes green. Indeed, this is one of the most prominent colours on our planet; the chlorophyll required for photosynthesis reflects a certain section of the light spectrum, making much of the Earth’s vegetation appear green to human eyes.
The inhabitants of the forests, however, come in all shades. While some develop brown and black outer layers to blend into their surroundings, others flamboyantly flaunt their bright, captivating colours. Like the birds-of-paradise, they use the sunlight to their advantage. From hummingbirds to orchid bees, a wealth of creatures shimmer and sparkle in the light – but why do they draw attention to themselves?
For many species, evolution has dictated that only those with the brightest colours, the most outstanding patterns or extravagant physical characteristics succeed in the mating game. This is by no means limited to birds: reptiles like chameleons and marine animals like cephalopods even communicate using their distinctive colours. They may flash a warning at an intruder, blend into their surroundings or attempt to impress a prospective partner.
The insect world is similarly dependent on colour. Some butterflies mimic poisonous relatives to deter hungry birds, while glasswing butterflies have chosen a different means of protection: they are almost completely transparent, making them a difficult target for predators.
70% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, and it is aptly known as “the blue planet”. Once again, these shades of blue are the result of sunlight hitting our world – as is the warmth that helps to support life. Some ocean dwellers have learned to enjoy basking in warm tropical waters before seeking out the fresher, more nutritious surroundings further north.
Below the surface of the oceans, the colourful fireworks continue: from flashy fish and captivating corals to venomous lionfish and eerie octopuses, the submarine world is a place where anything goes and everyone’s welcome.
‘What a Colourful World’ takes the viewer on a journey around the globe to discover a host of colourful creatures that make our world such a spectacularly diverse place. Seen from space, Earth may appear mainly green and blue, but a closer look reveals the true abundance of hues and shades caused by light refraction. From giant humpback whales to tiny dancing spiders, from strange-looking mandrills to frantic fiddler crabs – we explore what makes our globe such a kaleidoscope of colour.