Image of the Day: Eyed Elater

The click beetle’s intricate false eyes cast a deep black color with the help of pigment-coated hairs.

Amy Schleunes
Jan 23, 2020
The eyed elator’s false eyespots are composed of tiny bristles that reflect and refract light.
Victoria wong and paul marek, virginia tech

The eyespots of the eyed elater click beetle (Alaus oculatus) can absorb almost all light through melanin-rich microtubules on the insect’s back, according to a study published January 13 in PeerJ.  

Bird feathers feature barbules, intricate microstructures that “act as a baffle to light,” write Paul Marek  of Virginia Tech and Victoria Wong of Virginia Tech and Texas A&M University, in their study. The result is a deep hue known as “super black” that has applications in solar technology and optical manufacturing. In the click beetle, modified setae, a type of bristle with a microtubular structure, serve a similar function, causing light to reflect and refract, the authors write in the paper. Melanin covering the setae contributes to their absorptive properties. Although the elater’s false eyes are not technically “super black,” which means absorption of more than 99 percent of light, the researchers found that the eyespots were able to absorb 96.1 percent of incident light.

The authors describe the microtubules and melanin as “a collaboration between structural and pigmentary absorption,” noting that the resulting color makes “the beetle appear as a larger, more formidable opponent.”

V.L. Wong, P.E. Marek, “Structure and pigment make the eyed elater’s eyespots black,” PeerJ, doi:10.7717/peerj.8161, 2020.

Amy Schleunes is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at

January/February 2020

A Light in the Dark

Unpacking the Complex Neurobiology of Suicide


Sponsored Product Updates

BIA Separations and University of Zagreb Sign License Agreement to Commercialize Novel Elution Method for Virus and Viral Vector purification
Agreement gives BIA Separations access to proprietary technology to better preserve integrity, infectivity and potency of immunoaffinity-purified viral vectors for gene therapy
Norgen Biotek Offers First-Class Products to Assist Researchers in the Study and Molecular Diagnosis of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak
Norgen Biotek Corp., an innovative privately held Canadian biotechnology company focusing primarily on advancing powerful tools for nucleic acid and protein stabilization and purification, today announced that they are offering a number of products to the scientific and medical community to support the study of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19, formerly 2019-nCoV) outbreak in humans.
Can HEPAs Filter Out Everything?
HEPA filters remove particulate matter from the air, but can they catch volatile chemicals and DNA? Download this poster from The Baker Company to find out!
Touch Screen Repeating Pipette with Advanced Features from BrandTech® Scientific
NEW! The BRAND® HandyStep® touch S repeating pipette has advanced pipetting features for versatility.