Australia is notoriously known for its wildlife. From endangered koalas to dinner plate-sized spiders, the country has a reputation. As it turns out, Australia is putting itself on the map for a unique animal once again. This time, it’s for a glow-in-the-dark platypus.
According to a study published in Mammalia, US scientists discovered, quite by accident, that the Australian platypus glows in the dark. This discovery led to a deeper exploration of the marsupial and the Western Australian Museum came to realize that this luminescent feature is found in other Australian marsupials and mammals.
Kenny Travouillon, the curator of mammalogy at the Western Australian Museum, decided to test out the luminescence of the animals for himself with the assistance of an ultraviolet light, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Travouillon shared with ABC that he borrowed an ultraviolet light and got started on his experiment. He said they “turned off the lights in the collection and looked around for what was glowing and not glowing.” He reported his findings, saying, “The first one we checked was the platypus obviously. We shone the light and they were also glowing, it confirmed the research.”
Beyond the platypus, Travouillon and his team also found that marsupial moles, wombats, and biblies also glowed under the UV light, according to CNET.
He posted on Twitter, writing, “After platypus was shown to glow under UV light, couldn’t resist trying bilbies… their ears and tails shine bright like a diamond! #bilby #uv”
— Kenny Travouillon (@TravouillonK) November 3, 2020
A man in Tasmania tested out a few other specimens and shared his findings in a reply to Travouillon’s tweet. He said, “I checked fluorescence in fresh and frozen specimens of: sugar glider, ringtail possum, and eastern barred bandicoot. The bandicoot glowed bright pink on its flanks-nothing from the other two.”
Here in Tasmania I checked fluorescence in fresh and frozen specimens of: sugar glider, ringtail possum, and eastern barred bandicoot. The bandicoot glowed bright pink on its flanks-nothing from the other two. pic.twitter.com/cog16ciA3i
— TMT (@t_mcachan) November 26, 2020
As Travouillon shared on Twitter, he tested many different specimens in the museum and said “It seems most that worked were nocturnal.”
Though much more research is needed into this fascinating phenomenon, Travouillion shared his theory with ABC. He said:
“The benefit is probably so they can see their species from a distance and they can approach them because they know that it is safe to go towards that animal.”
However, not everyone agrees that this finding is significant. Researcher Michael Bok posted on Twitter in reply to the discovery, saying, “Please be careful about applying ecological or visual relevance to this. Many biological materials fluoresce, but the lighting conditions where it is visible to anything are incredibly unnatural. It is extremely implausible that this is a visual signal.”
Please be careful about applying ecological or visual relevance to this. Many biological materials fluoresce, but the lighting conditions where it is visible to anything are incredibly unnatural. It is extremely implausible that this is a visual signal. pic.twitter.com/6lAFRCvkXq
— Michael Bok (@mikebok) November 27, 2020
Ultimately, more research will need to be completed to form any evidence-based conclusions. Either way, it’s still pretty neat! What do you think of these glowing specimens?
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