What Makes Kadaknath Chicken Flesh Black & Feathers Iridescent?

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Kadaknath chicken is best known for the distinct colouring of its flesh…but what makes Kadaknath flesh black and its feathers iridescent?

This highly illustrative article published in The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s, Bird Academy entitled:

Kadaknath flesh pigmentation

According to the article, the black coloration of Kadaknath originates from the presence of melanin pigmentation [biochrome].

Melanin is described by Encyclopaedia Britannica as being…

…a complex polymer derived from the amino acid tyrosine. [Which when present in skin results in a darker visual appearance.]

…[melanin’s coloration works by] selective absorption of light by molecules whose size or vibrational wavelengths lie between 3,000 and 7,000 angstroms (one angstrom equals 10-7 millimetre)

In the case of the Kadaknath, the vibrational wavelength absorbed by the presence of melanin inside its flesh results in the black appearance.

As for it’s feathers, they also being black in colour similarly have melanin pigmentation.

Additional benefits of having melanin containing feathers is increased strength and resistance to wear and tear.

It is quoted by the University of New Mexico, that melanin improves feather durability against abrasion by up to 39%.

Kadaknath feather iridescence

The iridescence of the Kadaknath feathers – seen by a greenish metallic tinge lurking beneath the jet black plumage is produced by a prism-like refraction of the light by the multiple layers of feather proteins, namely:

  • Keratin cortex
  • Melanin rodules

Here is an illustration of how it works:

Kadaknath Iridescent
Feather iridescence of Kadaknath Chicken – courtesy of The Cornell Lab

The metallic coloration effect occurs by the light refracted gives the visual presentation of a variety of hues at one single glance.

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