The platypus is a very rare animal and it is also fluorescent

There are animals that are very strange, and one of the animals that comes first because of its rarity is the platypus. It’s a mammal, but the female lays eggs, it’s poisonous, semi-aquatic, has a duck’s bill, legs like otters, and no stomach. As if nature had given it few special properties, it was only recently discovered that the platypus is fluorescent.

The platypus is fluorescent
Dr. Philip Bethge, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons
The platypus is fluorescent. Your skin glows in the dark

Ornithorhynchus Anatinus, its scientific name, glows in the dark when illuminated by ultraviolet light. This animal is nocturnal and at dusk and has semi-aquatic habits. It had its cycle of evolution in places with little light. The discovery was made by American scientists who noticed that their fur glows in ultraviolet light.

This phenomenon is known as biofluorescence and can also be seen in some fish, birds, reptiles, and scorpions. Among mammals, those with twilight and nighttime habits such as the opossum and the flying squirrels stand out.

What is biofluorescence?

The study was recently published in the journal Mammalia. The researchers found that the platypus’s fur glows bluish-green under UV light. This surprised the study’s authors as it adds another strange trait to an animal that is believed to be unique.

The study of biofluorescence is new to science. Study a very common trait in the animal kingdom. It is a property that allows an animal’s fur or body to absorb light at one wavelength and reflect it at another. In most cases, the colors in this spectrum include green and blue, as in the platypus, and it also occurs in red and orange.

This phenomenon has been noticed in recent years. For example, in the shells of some species of sea turtles. Also in some mushrooms, in flying squirrels and scorpions. In all cases it happens when UV light is applied. A phenomenon that can also be observed in some jellyfish and corals that glow in the dark. Science still doesn’t know why these species have their fluorescent skin or fur. Some of the hypotheses outlined could be to communicate between individuals of the same species and also for camouflage reasons.

Platypus skin lights up
Image by Muy Interesante: https://estaticos.muyinteresante.es/media/cache/1140x_thumb/uploads/images/article/5fb3b7a55bafe8435e25981d/fluorescencia_0.jpeg

These are only hypotheses as platypus communication is unlikely as they keep their eyes closed while swimming. What can be true is that the platypus fluoresces to avoid other predators. The emission of biofluorescence is supposed to drive them away.

Scientists discovered by accident that it was fluorescent

The platypus study began at the Field Museum in Chicago, USA. The researchers first illuminated the skins of flying squirrels. A pink tinge was also noticed in the bellies of these squirrels as the UV light was brought closer to them.

The discovery of biofluorescence in platypus fur was accidental. There were some skins from these strange animals near where they were testing the squirrels. Out of curiosity, the researchers brought the ultraviolet light closer to them and they got the big surprise.

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