After checking with the museum’s workers, the crew went all the way down to the basement, discovered the platypus cupboard, and flipped on their particular lights. “And sure enough,” Dr. Olson mentioned. They had been ultimately in a position to study three platypuses: a male and a feminine on the Field Museum, and one other male from the University of Nebraska State Museum. All gave off the identical cool glow.
So did a road-killed platypus, found by a blacklight-wielding mycologist in northeast Australia this summer time. Despite the unhappy circumstances of the discovering, “we were elated to know that it was verified in a wild specimen,” Dr. Olson mentioned.
So why would a platypus fluoresce?
“We really don’t know,” Dr. Olson mentioned.
Other situations of life-form Lite Brite serve a transparent objective. Bioluminescence, for instance, helps ocean creatures lure prey and discover one another within the depths. And hummingbirds get data from the ultraviolet hues that some flowers mirror.
Fluorescence, although, is a little more opaque. Because it’s a pure property of sure supplies, “just finding fluorescence doesn’t mean it has any particular purpose,” mentioned Sönke Johnsen, a sensory biologist at Duke University who was not concerned with the research. Instead, he mentioned, that glow could possibly be incidental — “just something that’s there because it’s there.”
It’s unknown whether or not platypuses can understand both UV rays or fluorescence, particularly in pure gentle. One principle is that by absorbing and remodeling UV gentle somewhat than reflecting it, platypuses can higher disguise from UV-sensitive predators.
But that is only a speculation, Dr. Olson mentioned: “Our main goal is to document this trait,” in hopes that future analysis would possibly shed extra gentle. For now, his group plans to strategically examine different nocturnal mammals, to see if they’ll add to their record.
They could have opened a number of extra museum cupboards already. “Stay tuned,” he mentioned.