Platypuses Glow Under Blacklight. We Have No Idea Why.
By Editor - Sun Nov 15, 11:29 am
When last we checked on the platypus, it was confounding our expectations of mammals with its webbed feet, duck-like bill and laying of eggs. More than that, it was producing venom.Now it turns out that even its drab-seeming coat has been hiding a secret — when you turn on the blacklights, it starts to glow.Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York TimesAs noted last month in the journal Mammalia, shining an ultraviolet light on a platypus makes the animal's fur fluoresce with a greenish-blue tint. They're one of the few mammals known to exhibit this trait. And we're still in the dark about why they do it — if there is a reason at all.For most humans, ultraviolet light exists outside of the visible spectrum. But certain pigments can absorb it, drain off some of its energy, and reemit what remains as a color that people can see. Many manmade things contain such pigments, including white T-shirts, Froot Loops and petroleum jelly.A lot of living things do, too. Scorpions, lichens and puffin beaks all pop under UV light. Blue light, which is a notch away from ultraviolet, makes the undersea world look like an indoor mini golf course, and causes dozens of types of amphibians to glow green.Mammals, though, seem to have generally gotten the short end of this paintbrush: So far, not many have been found to have coats or skin that fluoresce