Wind Against Current

By Vladimir Brezina

This week’s Photo Challenge has got me thinking about the color Purple.

The most vivid purple that I’ve ever seen was not the purple of flowers, nor of sunsets. Rather, I see it in my lab. One of the experimental animals we work with is a large marine slug from California, Aplysia californica, popularly known as the sea hare. When disturbed, the sea hare releases a cloud of ink that has the most intense, rich purple color.

Those of a classical bent will recall Tyrian Purple, also known as Royal or Imperial Purple, a dye greatly prized in antiquity, which was made from a similar ink produced by several Mediterranean snail species:

Tyrian Purple was expensive: the 4th-century-BC historian Theopompus reported, “Purple for dyes fetched its weight in silver at Colophon” in Asia Minor. The expense meant that purple-dyed textiles became…

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