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Molecular mechanisms of petal iridescence: how do structural colours arise in flowers?


Iridescent animals, such as peacocks and butterflies, owe their stunning colours to the manipulation of light by minute structures organized on or just below their surfaces. Iridescence is common in animals where it acts as mimicry or as a signal for mate selection, but it has been poorly studied in plants. The Glover lab recently discovered that flowers also produce structural colours, visible to pollinators, due to ordered striations (like those on a CD) of the cuticle on the petal epidermis. How and when these features develop is unknown. To unveil the genetic mechanisms behind iridescence, I will carry out high-throughput molecular studies along with microscopic observations and biochemical analysis using Venice Mallow (Hibiscus trionum) as a model species to establish the identities and the functions of genes governing the assembly of epidermal ridges. To conduct this work, I will also benefit from ongoing collaboration with physicists to establish the optical properties of these nanostructures, from behavioural ecology tools present in the lab to test pollinators’ reactions to iridescent petals and from the new methodologies I developed during my PhD. This project will discover original developmental pathways, used by flowering plants to shape their surfaces and communicate with insects.

Field of science

  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/biological behavioural sciences/behavioural ecology
  • /engineering and technology/materials engineering/colors

Call for proposal

See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

MC-IEF - Intra-European Fellowships (IEF)


Trinity Lane The Old Schools
CB2 1TN Cambridge
United Kingdom
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 200 371,80
Administrative Contact
Renata Schaeffer (Ms.)