Animal coloration has been a topic of interest and research in biology for centuries.
In his 1665 book Micrographia, Robert Hooke describes the "fantastical" (structural, not
pigment) colours of the Peacock's feathers
The parts of the Feathers of this glorious Bird appear, through the Microscope, no less gaudy
then do the whole Feathers; for, as to the naked eye 'tis evident that the stem or quill of each
Feather in the tail sends out multitudes of Lateral branches, ... so each of those threads in the
Microscope appears a large long body, consisting of a multitude of bright reflecting parts.
Their upper sides seem to me to consist of a multitude of thin plated bodies, which are exceeding
thin, and lie very close together, and thereby, like mother of Pearl shells, do not onely reflect a
very brisk light, but tinge that light in a most curious manner; and by means of various positions,
in respect of the light, they reflect back now one colour, and then another, and those most
vividly. Now, that these colours are onely fantastical ones, that is, such as arise immediately
from the refractions of the light, I found by this, that water wetting these colour'd parts, destroy'd
their colours, which seem'd to proceed from the alteration of the reflection and refraction.
according to Charles Darwin's 1859 theory of natural selection, features such as
coloration evolved by providing individual animals with a reproductive advantage. For example,
individuals with slightly better camouflage than others of the same specieswould, on average,
leave more offspring. In his Origin of Species, Darwin wrote
When we see leaf-eating insects green, and bark-feeders mottled-grey; thealpine ptarmigan white
in winter, the red-grouse the colour of heather, and theblack-grouse that of peaty earth, we must
believe that these tints are of service to these birds and insects in preserving them from danger.
Grouse, if not destroyed at some period of their lives, would increase in countless numbers; they
are known to suffer largely from birds of prey; and hawks are guided by eyesight to their prey, so
much so, that on parts of the Continent persons are warned not to keep white pigeons, as being
the most liable to destruction. Hence I can see no reason to doubt that natural selection might be
most effective in giving the proper colour to each kind of grouse, and in keeping that colour,
when once acquired, true and constant.
Henry Walter Bates's 1863 book The Naturalist on the River Amazons describes his extensive
studies of the insects in the Amazon basin, and especially the butterflies. He discovered that
apparently similar butterflies often belonged to different families, with a harmless
species mimicking a poisonous or bitter-tasting species to reduce its chance of being attacked by
a predator, in the process now called after him,Batesian mimicry.
Edward Bagnall Poulton's strongly Darwinian 1890 book The Colours of Animals, their meaning
and use, especially considered in the case of insects argued the case for three aspects of animal
coloration that are broadly accepted today but were controversial or who