Flying squirrels glow pink, thanks to fluorescence

(nationalgeographic.com)

35 points | by curtis 188 days ago

4 comments

  • jfarlow 187 days ago

    Pretty cool!

    > Anich says that Jon Martin—a forestry professor and coauthor on the paper—was exploring a Wisconsin forest at night, using a UV flashlight to scan the canopy for lichens, fungi, plants, and frogs that occasionally fluoresce. “One evening,” says Anich, “he heard the chirp of a flying squirrel at a bird feeder, pointed the flashlight at it, and was amazed to see pink fluorescence.”

    I like that we're literally hunting for fluorescent organisms. I suspect that kind of bioprospecting for high-value exotic genetic traits will become more and more interesting as we move forward with our biological engineering capabilities.

    • downer52 187 days ago

      Going out on a limb here, it's probably an air traffic adaptation, that arose due to a conflict in sharing air space with pollinating insects like bees, which have coincidentally adapted to notice UV reactive flowers.

      For whatever reason, the UV reactive squirrels likely have survived more encounters with UV other sensitive flying animals (most likely, stinging insects) than the non-UV fluorescent variety, thus being selected for.

      Hypothetically, if you're a UV reactive object, insects probably treat you differently.

      A flying squirrel careening through tree canopy at break-neck speeds probably crashes into insect hives once in a blue moon. Some of those squirrels probably got stung to death, but maybe the UV squirrels registered in insect brains as falling plant matter (a big ass flower getting knocked off a branch incidentally), thus not a threat, thus no crisis, thus no fight or flight response, thus no swarming killer sting attacks.

      Just an idea. No real evidence supplied. Google your own links.

      • Alex3917 187 days ago

        I volunteer to test whether their diet (90% truffles) can cause the same issue in humans.

        • astazangasta 187 days ago

          Obviously this is just a coincidence and not adaptive. Squirrels didn't evolve in an environment where people are going around shining them with UV flashlights.

          • HarryHirsch 187 days ago

            Indeed. There is the fluorescent frog (this one https://www.nature.com/news/first-fluorescent-frog-found-1.2...), but the fluorescent compound might well have evolved as protection against UV light. Some other animals have bile dyes in their tissues, and again they are only fluorescent by accident.

            • mhb 187 days ago

              That might be obvious if they only fluoresced when illuminated with a UV flashlight held by a person.

              • astazangasta 186 days ago

                When else are they going to encounter that much UV?