That Platypus Glow

Fluorescent platypus seen under UV light

What has fur and GLOWS brighter than a Tyra Banks Smize?! (That’s a smile with your eyes.)

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Some animals really light up a room…BUT only under ultraviolet light. This is called biofluorescence. Scientists believe mammals like possums use it for communication or finding food. What other critters have that special “glow?”

Enter Paula Spaeth Anich and team from Northland College. They began their investigation with a venomous, egg-laying Australian native. A platypus! The researchers used taxidermy specimens from museums in Chicago and Nebraska. They took pictures of three platypuses on their backs and bellies.

How did their photoshoot turn out? Under normal light, platypus fur appeared brown. Under ultraviolet light…WOWZA! Their fur GLOWED greenish-blue.

As nature’s favorite grab-bag of special features, the platypus appears to be even MORE magical. More research will determine how platypuses use their ultraviolet glow in the wild. For now, the platypus keeps its secret, but helps shed light on furs that glow.

America’s Next Top Models or not – we’re no longer in the dark!

Anich, Paula Spaeth, Sharon Anthony, Michaela Carlson, Adam Gunnelson, Allison M Kohler, Jonathan G Martin, and Erik R Olson. Biofluorescence in the Platypus (Ornithorhynchus Anatinus). Mammalia 1, no. ahead-of-print (2020).