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The significance of color to a species
Fanni Ahvenainen
Ecological Photography
Universidad Veritas

The primary necessity which led to the development of the sense of
color was propably the need of ditinguishing objects much alike in
form and size, but differing in important properties. For example: ripe
and unripe, eatable or poisonous, flowers with honey or without and
sexes of the species.

Pigments are responsible for many of the colors of the plants and
animals. They absorb some of the light they receive, and so reflect
only certain wavelengths of visible light. This makes pigments appear

In this photo essay I bring out some of the Costa Rican species with
vivid colors and explane why they are the color they are.


Where: Tapantí National Park
Technique used: fill the frame

Like all green in plants, the green of the leafs of this rosa de
alabastro (Lat. Echeveria Elegans Crassulaceae) comes from the
chlorophylls. They enable plants to produce oxygen during
photosynthesis, so they are critical to sustaining our life on earth.

This plant has also very thick leafs because of the cool climate it is
growing in. That is why it belongs to the Crassulaceae (”fatty” or
”chubby” in Latin) –family.

Where: La Selva Biological Station
Technique used: thriads

The red color of these berries comes from flavonoids, pigments that
produce vibrant reds, yellows, blues and violets of the plant world.

The color lures especially birds and bats but as well mammals to eat
the fruit. When the animal defecates, it spreads the seeds of the tree at
the same time. This way the plant can reproduce.

Where: La Selva Biological Station
Technique used: rule of thirds

This is a male Olive-backed Euphonia (Lat. Euphonia gouldi). The
coloration of its feathers tells the female birds of its capability to
breed decent offspring.

The color of the bird can partially come from the carotenoids,
pigments that many of the birds absorb only through their diet since
just the plants and seaweeds can make carotenoids, but animals
cannot. Carotenoids appear yellow and orange in the plants and in
the animals who eat them, and they can also interact with melanins
(a pigment especially common in mammals) to produce different

Where: La Selva Biological Station
Technique: sweet spot

The blue color of this Miconia Payaso (Lat. Miconia Afinis) comes
also from the flavonoids, the pigments that are most attract animals
when it comes to food.

However, these berries are not appealing to bats because they can
only see in yellow-red scale. The size of the berry is also quite small
so the mammals propably won’t eat it either. Therefore birds are
most likely to be the ones to eat the berries and spread the seeds.

Where: La Selva Biological Station
Technoque: simplify the scene

In spite of its name this green iguana (Lat. Iguana Iguana) has a
brownish coloration that serves as a camouflage. The color of green
iguanas varies a lot depending of their environment. The juvenile
iguanas are also much more bright colored than the adult ones but
the color fades as they grow up.

Pigments also aid in sexual reproduction by, for example, signaling
readiness to breed. This male iguana has a little bit of red pigment in
its wattle and back. That red tone will appear much brighter when it’s
the breeding time.
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• Cornell Universty. (2014). All About Birds: Color. Retrieved 15.6.2014 from
• Costa Rica. (2011). Green iguanas. Retreved 15.6.2014 from
• Douma, M., curator. (2008). Cause of Color. Retrieved 15.6.2014
• Flavonoid. (2014). Retrieved 13.6.2014 from
• Green. (2014). Retrieved 13.6.2014 from
• Kevan, P.G. & Backhaus, W.G.K. (1998). Color Vision: Ecology and Evolution in
Making the Best of the Photic Environment. Retrieved 15.6.2014 from
• Scott, S. (2000). Animals need carotenoids for color. Retrieved 13.6.2014 from
• Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. (2014). STRI Herbarium. Retrieved
15.6.2014 from