DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
False-colour scanning electron micrograph of part of a feather from a magpie, Pica pica. The flat broad vane of a feather is formed by comb-like rows of filaments called barbs (the thick blue/grey lines here) which project from either side of the central shaft. Similarly, each barb has two rows of minute filaments called barbules (visible here in yellow); the barbules on one side bear hooks, while those on the other have a groove. The arrangement is such as to hook adjacent barbs together, interlinking the whole structure. Thus the feather is strong yet flexible and light, making it ideal for flight. Magnification: x50 at 6x4.5cm size.
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