The platypus ( Ornithorhynchus anatinus ) is a species of semi-aquatic mammal endemic to eastern Australia and the island of Tasmania. The unusual appearance of this mammal (egg-laying, poisonous, with a duck-billed snout, beaver tail, and otter legs) puzzled European naturalists when they first encountered it, even being considered by some like an elaborate forgery .
Now to the list of rare characteristics we have to add another: fluorescent fur , according to this new study .
In this recent study published in the journal Mammalia , researchers found that when illuminated with ultraviolet (UV) light, a spectrum of light not visible to human eyes, platypus’ skins emitted a blue-green glow.
The finding expands the scientific understanding of biofluorescence, which researchers have found to be more widespread throughout the animal kingdom than previously thought.
Biofluorescence is the phenomenon whereby a substance, such as skin, absorbs light at one wavelength and emits it at a different wavelength. Common biofluorescent shades include green, red, orange, and blue.
In recent years, scientists have discovered that various types of shells from sea turtles, mushrooms, and flying squirrels are biofluorescent. Although the reasons are unknown, the hypotheses include camouflage or communication between individuals of the same species .
But why do platypuses glow? Since the animals are nocturnal and keep their eyes closed when swimming, it seems unlikely that it plays a significant role in communication with other platypuses. It can help them avoid certain predators that can see UV light; absorbing ultraviolet rays and emitting blue-green light could serve as a form of camouflage.
It is also possible that the trait has no actual function, that it is simply an ancestral trait that the platypus has retained in addition to its other primitive characteristics, such as laying eggs .