Something astounding happened in 2020—something that will forever change what you think is possible in this world. Researchers shone a black light on a platypus, and… it… glowed. Just like a blacklight poster. Now, you may be tempted to add this to the long list of the platypuses’ strange traits, but the thing is, this glowing may not be as weird as we think. In fact, we may be the weird ones for not doing it ourselves!

Just when you think our world couldn’t get any more wild and full of remarkable wonders, we decide to shine a blacklight on it. Wait until you see this!

So… platypus glow now?

Yep! Well, they’ve actually been doing it for a while. It turns out that fluorescence (the actual term for this sort of glowing) may not be all that uncommon in mammals! Opossums and flying squirrels glow a lovely pink color, while a lovely blue-green shines from our friend, the platypus. 1 These three creatures cover every branch of mammals: marsupial, placental (that’s us), and now with our duck-billed friend, monotremes.

But what exactly does this all mean? And why in the world would glowing be such a good idea for so many creatures? Wouldn’t that… y’know… make them pretty obvious to their foes? Well, since it took until this past year for these questions to be considered, I suppose not!

Here’s a look at what we know so far from an EWC favorite, SciShow:

Via: SciShow 2

If you want to keep up with the latest discoveries in science, make sure you’re subscribed to SciShow over on YouTube!

A glow new world!

How amazing is it that all of these animals have been glowing right under our noses for so long? They’re out there absorbing UV rays and reflecting them back to the world in a whole array of colors for a variety of different reasons—and we barely knew a thing about it!

This all just goes to show how much there still is to discover and delight in here on Earth, for how can we be bored when the “how” and the “why” is still to be uncovered about these creatures (and likely, more) who actually fluoresce?!

It’s so charming to think about all of the scientists out there looking for critters glowing in the dark, and so exciting to think about the possible innovations we can make down the line when we know more about them.

Do raccoons shine pink? Do beavers radiate green? Who knows what we’ll find when we look closer at the world; I think that’s what makes it so amazing in the first place.

If you’d like to check out one of our favorite glowing friends, you’ve gotta meet the bobtail squid.

Instead of fluorescence, these tiny squid have made a life-long pact with the bioluminescent bacteria living inside of them that glow—making the squid look like the moon! 

Here’s the article:

7 minutes

The Bacteria that Lights Up This Squid’s Life

The relationship between the bobtail squid and this bacteria is the definition of a healthy relationship. And maybe we can all learn a little something from them!

Read More

As always, my friend, stay open to new possibilities.

  • Sam

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Notes:

  1. C, Hannah. “Do Mammals Have Biofluorescent Fur?” Science Times, 2 Nov. 2020, www.sciencetimes.com/articles/28011/20201102/mammals-biofluorescent-fur.htm. Accessed 28 Jan. 2021.
  2. SciShow. “So Apparently Platypuses Glow in the Dark.” YouTube, 16 Jan. 2021, www.youtube.com/watch?v=BW6fH5TOihk. Accessed 28 Jan. 2021.

Sam has written and edited hundreds of articles since joining the EWC team in 2016. She writes about topics from the wonders of nature to the organizations changing the world and the simple joys in life! Outside of the EWC office, she’s a part-time printmaker, collector of knick-knacks, and taster of cheeses.