Black is an uncommon color in nature. Most living things are not purely black, but have colors like brown, gray, or green that help them blend into their environments. True black is rare, but some animals, plants, rocks, and other natural things appear black or very dark. Let’s explore what is naturally black in nature and why black is an unusual color for living things.
Some animals have black as one of their main colors. This black coloring often serves a purpose, like camouflage, communication, or temperature regulation. Here are some examples of black animals:
– Ravens and crows: These species of birds are entirely black, including their beaks and feet. The black plumage helps them blend into wooded areas.
– Black swans: Native to Australia, black swans have black feathers with white wing tips. Their dark color distinguishes them from the more common white swan.
– Ducks and geese: Some duck and goose species have black feathers like the Australian black duck and Canada goose. The female birds are often brownish-black while the males are darker black.
– Black panthers: These big cats have black fur caused by high levels of melanin, the pigment responsible for dark coloration. Their black coats help them hide in the forest.
– Bats: Many bat species have black fur, which likely helps them be less visible at night when hunting for insects.
– Black bears: These bears can range in color from black to cinnamon but some populations, like the American black bear, are predominantly black.
Reptiles and Amphibians
– Black mambas: Considered one of Africa’s most venomous snakes, black mambas have greyish-black skin that helps them blend into the brush.
– Black racer snakes: Common in North America, these solid black snakes are great climbers and prefer habitats near water.
– Axolotls: These unique black-colored salamanders are critically endangered and native only to Lake Xochimilco in Mexico.
– Ocellated black snapper: With a black and white dotted pattern, this reef fish blends into the shadows of coral reefs.
– Black dragonfish: Adapted to the deep ocean, this fish has black loose skin and glows red.
– Black tetra: Small freshwater fish like black tetras use their dark colors to hide from predators.
– Black widow spiders: The females are shiny black with a red hourglass marking. Their coloration is a warning of their venomous bite.
– Black soldier fly: These flies are black with transparent wings and help break down and compost organic material.
– Black cutworm moths: The larvae of these black night-flying moths are agricultural pests of many crops.
While less common than in the animal kingdom, some plants also have very dark pigmentation:
– Bat flowers: Shaped like bats, these black-purple flowers are pollinated by bats at night.
– Black petunia: A variety of petunia with deep black-purple flowers.
– Black dahlia: These showy black flowers with spiky petals are a horticultural variety of dahlia.
Trees and bushes
– Black locust: Named for its dark burgundy buds, this tree has fragrant white flowers in spring.
– Black elderberry: Producing clusters of tiny black berries, elderberry bushes thrive in sunny locations.
– Black spruce: An evergreen conifer native to North America, it has a dark grayish-brown trunk.
Fruits and vegetables
– Black tomatoes: Extra anthocyanins give certain tomato cultivars a dark black-red color.
– Black raspberries: Small, hollow berries that turn from red to black as they ripen in summer.
– Black salsify: This root vegetable has black skin and a creamy white interior when cut.
With their lack of chlorophyll, mushrooms and other fungi are commonly brown, gray, or black:
– Black trumpet mushroom: Known for its smoky flavor, this wild mushroom has a black trumpet-shaped cap.
– Black morel mushroom: Highly prized for its earthy taste, it has a conical black cap and patterned stem.
– Black jelly fungi: These small black jelly-like mushrooms grow in clusters on dead wood.
Inedible or poisonous fungi
– Black mold: Dark-colored mold that grows on organic materials, potentially causing respiratory issues.
– Black witch’s butterfly: A poisonous mushroom with a black “butterfly-like” cap and white stem.
– Black knights: Named for their dark knight’s helmet-shaped caps, they can cause gastrointestinal issues.
While less common than other colors, black or very dark rocks and minerals can form in certain conditions:
– Obsidian: Volcanic glass that forms from quickly cooled lava, creating a shiny black rock.
– Basalt: A dark-colored volcanic rock formed from solidified lava, often found in oceanic crust.
– Shale: A black laminated sedimentary rock that splits into thin layers.
– Hematite: A black metallic mineral and important ore of iron. Also known as “bloodstone.”
– Black tourmaline: A crystal boron silicate mineral that can be opaque black.
– Magnetite: An iron oxide mineral that is naturally magnetic and appears black or dark brown.
Other Natural Black Things
Beyond animals, plants, and rocks, some other naturally-occurring things appear black:
– Water: Extremely deep and dense water can appear black because sunlight cannot penetrate. This black water is found in the ocean’s abyssal zone.
– Coal: Formed over millions of years from compressed plant matter, coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock.
– Wetlands mud: In swamps and marshes, thick black mud comprised of decaying plants forms an anaerobic environment.
– Night sky: The vast darkness of space gives the night sky its black appearance dotted with stars.
Rarity of Black in Nature
As we’ve seen, black is an uncommon color in the natural world. Here are some reasons why black pigmentation is rare for living organisms:
– Melanin production requires extra energy and resources that may be invested elsewhere.
– Black coloration can increase an organism’s body temperature, which most plants and animals avoid.
– Bright, visible colors like white and brown often better serve animals for attracting mates or camouflaging.
– Plants need light energy for photosynthesis, so very dark pigments reduce light absorption.
However, black can confer advantages like camouflage, warning coloration, UV protection, and temperature absorption that cause some organisms to evolve darker pigmentation. Overall though, nature favors more energy-efficient and practical colors and black remains an unusual color.
While not common in the natural world, black or extremely dark-colored organisms, minerals, and geological formations definitely exist. The occurrences of black in nature illustrate how sometimes unusual traits can be beneficial, despite their rarity. The examples and explanations provided here hopefully shed light on this rather dark subject and what exactly is found naturally black in nature.