The platypus areone of the rarest species in the world. It is a monotreme animal, that is, an egg-laying mammal that uses electroreception to hunt and has poisonous spurs, a duck-like beak and webbed feet. To all these peculiar qualities is added one more: can glow in the dark, as collected Gizmodo.
It thus joins the possums and the flying squirrels, and it becomes the third known biofluorescent mammal, according to a study by a team led by biologist Paula Spaeth Anich, of Northland College, who last year discovered this same attribute in flying squirrels, published in early October in the journal Mammalia scientist.
To carry out the research, the group studied three specimens, two males and one female, from the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and the State Museum at the University of Nebraska. This mammal shows activity at night, dusk and while there is still darkness before dawn.
Their fur, brown in the sunlight, is glows greenish under UV light. The platypus’s skin is capable of absorbing UV wavelengths between 200 and 400 nanometers and then emitting a visible glow between 500 and 600 nanometers, a visual phenomenon that gives rise to fluorescence.
This feature is own of the species, so both males and females can emit this light. However, the researchers ask for caution, as the sample is small. In any case, they are “sure that the fluorescence we observe not owned by museum displays“.
Its bioluminescence is given to adapt to low light conditions, and it could be one of the techniques used by this animal to interact with other specimens of the same species, since “the absorbance and fluorescence of ultraviolet rays can be particularly important for mammals”, they explain in the study.
Refering to evolutionary perspective From this finding, it should be noted that monotremes, marsupials and placental mammals they have a common ancestor from which they parted approximately 150 million years ago, during the time when the Triassic period was ending.
On this, Anich highlighted in a statement that it is “intriguing to see that animals that were so distant relatives also had biofluorescent fur”, and left a question in the air: “Is biofluorescence an ancestral trait of mammals?”.
Is a difficult question to answer. If the answer is yes, it means that these very different groups of mammals have kept them in their bodies for all this time. genes responsible for making the coat shine of these animals. But there is another alternative: that they have acquired this trait individually as a consequence of their evolution.