This Adorable Rodent Changes Its Color Under UV Light And Scientists Are Stunned

This Adorable Rodent Changes Its Color Under UV Light And Scientists Are Stunned

Say hello to the incredible springhare that "glows" under black light.

Honestly, how cool is nature? Did you know that certain animals have this fascinating ability to actually glow in dark light? The phenomenon is called biofluorescence. There are a handful of animals that exhibit this captivating trait. This includes platypuses, opossums, and three species of North American flying squirrels, according to the New York Times. Researchers have now discovered a new member of the club: Springhares! Two species of the rabbit-sized rodents showcase this feature and they're usually found in the savannas of southern and eastern Africa. The African Wildlife Foundations describes the animal as appearing to be a "cross between a kangaroo and a rabbit."



The website goes on to elaborate: They were once grouped with jerboas (jumping rodents), then with porcupines, then with scaly-tailed squirrels, until finally they were allotted their own family. Their large back legs enable them to make gigantic leaps, using their long tail for balance. Their much smaller forelimbs have very sharp claws, which they use to dig. The springhare also possesses a flap of skin at the base of the ear that can be completely closed to prevent sand from getting into the inner ear.



Researchers discovered that this particular creature had a unique pinkish-orange that was “funky and vivid" under black light. Mammals rarely have the property of fluorescence. This means having pigments that can absorb ultraviolet light and re-emit it as a vibrant, visible color. A group of researchers, many associated with Northland College in Ashland, decided to look out for exceptional mammals that have this trait. Biologist Jonathan Martin waved a UV flashlight on a squirrel once that turned eraser-pink which piqued the researchers' interestest. Soon they discovered springhares exhibit this phenomenon. “We were equal parts shocked and excited,” said Erik Olson, an associate professor of natural resources at the college and an author of the new paper, published in Scientific Reports. “We had so many questions.”



What causes this? The fluorescence apparently comes largely from a set of pigments called porphyrins after a chemical analysis of the hair of the springhare was looked into. “Are these species all found on one part of the mammalian phylogenetic tree? Certainly not,” said Tim Caro, a professor of evolutionary ecology at the University of Bristol in England who did not take part in the research. “Do they all have one sort of lifestyle? No” — all eat different things, he said. “Are they using this delightful coloration to attract mates so we might see a characteristic signature of one sex but not the other fluorescing? No, that does not happen either.” The fact that “there is no pattern,” Dr. Caro said, suggests that “either we don’t know the function of this sort of coloration, or there is no function at all.”According to Dr. Olson, one should keep being curious and flashing those blacklights.“The hard work of documenting this trait more broadly, across Mammalia, is now at hand.”


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