Under visible light, the extremely dense fur of a platypus – which insulates and protects it in cold water – is a cloudy brown, so the trippy glow that was visible under UV light on a stuffed museum specimen was a big surprise.Biofluorescence – absorbs and emits light of a different color – is common in fish, amphibians, birds, and reptiles. But the trait is much rarer in mammals, and this is the first evidence of biofluorescence in egg-laying mammals, also known as monotreme, scientists reported in a new study.
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Prior to this discovery, biofluorescence was only known in two mammals: flying squirrels, which are placental mammals, and possums, which are marsupials. This is evident from the study published online in the journal October 15 Mammalia.
Study co-author Allison Kohler, a PhD student in the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, had previously tested museum specimens of flying squirrel and found that all three North American species – the northern flying squirrel (Glaucoma sabrinus), the southern flying squirrel (Glaucoma steering wheel) and Humboldt’s flying squirrel (Glaucomys oregonensis) – glowed light pink in UV light. Kohler and her colleagues reported on January 23, 2019 in the Journal of Mammals.
While testing the specimens from the Flying Squirrel Museum for signs of biofluorescence, they decided to examine other mammal species in the same collections as well. according to a statement.
Platypuses are semi-aquatic and live in eastern Australia. They are such a strange collection of body parts that they appear to be cobbled together by unrelated animals. so maybe fitting, her scientific name, Ornithorhynchus anatinusmeans according to London flat feet with a bird’s snout Naturkundemuseum (NHM).
These strange mammals have furry bodies; flat and hairless beaver-like tails; Webbed feet (males also have spores on their hind legs that are loaded with poison); and wide bills like a duck. When 19th-century Europeans first saw the preserved hides of these strange-looking creatures, many experts thought the animal was a taxidermy joke that featured a duck’s bill sewn to the body of a mole, according to the NHM.
The discovery of the fluorescent glow of platypus came from two specimens from Tasmania, Australia, in the collection of the Field Museum in Chicago. Both specimens – a male and a female – showed the glow according to the study. The scientists then tested a third specimen at the University of Nebraska State Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska; This platypus, a male, had been collected in New South Wales, Australia. It also glowed green in UV light.
The greenish-bluish color showed a similar pattern and intensity in the male and female platypus, suggesting that it is not a reproductive-related sexual trait, the researchers reported.
Platypuses control their seedy aquatic environments through mechanoreception, recognition of mechanical stimuli such as touch and sound and electrical stimulation, perception of natural electrical signals. Since they do not rely heavily on vision, it is possible that their biofluorescence is not being used to communicate with each other, but rather to reduce their visibility to predators, as is the case with some biofluorescent crustaceans.
“However, field research will be essential to document platypus biofluorescence and its ecological function in wildlife,” wrote the study’s authors.
The discovery of the platypus’ secret glow also sheds light on this feature in mammals and shows that not only some highly specialized species glow in the dark.
“Instead, it appears throughout phylogeny,” said the scientists.
These biofluorescent mammals occupy different ecosystems on three continents. And now, with the addition of the platypus, they represent all of the major lines of mammals; Placental mammals, marsupials and monotreme. One possible explanation is that mammalian biofluorescence, though rare, may be an ancestral trait that the study showed early on in the group’s family tree.
Originally published on Live Science.
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