It is more common than previously thought. For example, biofluorescence occurs in flying squirrels that glow pink. But other animals in the same family share this ability. Mammals that glow in the dark include more and more species. Vombatids, bilbies and other marsupials also glow. Fluorescent green, blue and pink colors are obtained under ultraviolet light. This is the result of a study by a group of Australian scientists.
To what extent is this trait present in our mammalian heritage? The glow under the platypus was recently revealed. The biologists Kenny Travouillon and Linette Umbrello experimented with ultraviolet rays on different samples. This resulted in neon vombatids as well as bright-eared bilbies.
“We only tested it on two dozen mammals. About a third of them glowed, “said Travouillon. They include platypus, echidnas, bandicoots, couscous and some bats. Australian creatures combine with a variety of other living things that bio-fluoresce.
Biofluorescence occurs when a living being absorbs high energy radiation such as ultraviolet. Then it sends out light at a lower frequency. Many proteins have been identified that can produce it in the skin or other tissues of animals. Even bones and teeth, says Australian Museum scientist Greta Frankham.
“There may be other chemicals in other things like fur that fluoresce,” he explained.
The ears and tails of the bilbies (Macrotis leucura) glow under ultraviolet light. These are nocturnal and endangered species that live in the desert. They like to eat other animals that also glow under ultraviolet rays: scorpions.
Night to shine
Many of the mammals that glow in the dark are nocturnal or active at dusk (most active at dusk). Biofluorescence requires a light source so that the glow can be re-emitted, and there is less UV light at night.
“You can possibly see a lot more than we can,” said Travouillon.
There is now much speculation as to why some mammals glow under ultraviolet rays. But it’s a common phenomenon. “At this stage we all guess why this is happening. Additional testing is needed to really understand what is happening, ”said Travouillon.
The specialist plans to test more mammals in different lights and see if there really is a pattern with nocturnal ones. Apparently, in many ways, the science of mammals was still in the dark.