Scientists have discovered that platypus — the intriguing animal that has duck-bills and the tail of a beaver — glows green under ultra violet (UV) rays.
As reported by Metro UK, the fur absorbs light from UV rays and emits it at a different wavelength. This is rarely found in mammals and has previously been discovered only in opossums and flying squirrels.
The study conducted by Northland College from the US has been published in the journal Mammalia. Talking about the significance of this new finding, researchers said, “Living monotremes represent an ancient mammalian lineage with a long independent evolutionary history.”
It is believed that the ability to glow in the dark was achieved by the animal as a way to adapt to low-light conditions. Additionally, platypus must have developed this skill so that they can see each other in the dark.
Professor Paula Spaeth Anich, lead author of the study, said that it was a mix of serendipity and curiosity that made them study platypus under UV light. She adds that they were also interested in seeing how deep the trait of biofluorescent fur went in the mammalian tree.
Platypus are semi-aquatic monotremes that can be found in freshwater creeks, slow-moving rivers and built-water storage such as farm dams in Australia.
These animals lay eggs but then also nurse their infants with milk. They use mechanoreception and electroreception to hunt their prey.
According to Paula, it is thought that monotremes branched off marsupial-placental lineage over 150 million years ago. She says that it is intriguing to then see the platypus have similar features like biofluorescent fur despite being distant relatives.
The study has been conducted by the researchers from the US on platypus remains in a museum. Their next step would be to partner with researchers who are studying platypus in Australia and see if the animal present in the wild also glows in UV light.