(Submitted Photo)

Flying squirrels found to glow pink in the dark, including two from B.C.

Squirrels from Hope and Abbotsford were included in the biologists’ database

Is an ultraviolet flashlight part of your camping kit? If not, you may want to get one. Scientists in Wisconsin have just discovered that flying squirrels, including two specimens from B.C., are vividly fluorescent under UV light.

Skeptical? At first, so were the colleagues of Wisconsin-based biologist Jonathan Martin, who stumbled upon the splendorous squirrels in his own backyard.

Martin told Black Press Media it all started when the world’s first fluorescent frogs were discovered in the tropics in 2017.

Intent on finding out if the frogs in his woodsy backyard also fluoresce (they don’t), he purchased a UV flashlight.

Martin was outside with the flashlight, poking around in some of the surrounding plant life, when he heard activity at his bird feeder.

“We have quite a few flying squirrels that come to the bird feeder and I just happened to be out there, heard it and didn’t even think that it was a UV light in my hand,” said Martin, who instinctively turned toward the squirrels. “I was like, ‘Holy smokes!’”

Under the UV light, the flying squirrels were fluorescing pink.

“The pictures don’t do it justice,” said Martin. “It’s bright pink. It’s neon pink.”

Being a professor of forestry at Northland College in Wisconsin, or a “tree guy” as he says, Martin was met with some skepticism when he told his mammal-specialized colleagues about the fuchsia fur.

But at Martin’s request, Northland natural resources professor Erik Olson took a UV flashlight along with him on a mammal trapping trip. Olson saw the rosé rodents, then so did Northland’s small animal expert Paula Spaeth Anich, and soon the professors were collaborating with Allison Kohler, an undergraduate student at Northland at the time.

Kohler, who is the lead author of the paper they published in the Journal of Mammalogy on Jan. 23, went to museums to test flying squirrel specimens for the fluorescence.

“We saw it on virtually every specimen, so then we knew it was really something special,” Martin said.

Martin was able to confirm there were at least two Canadian squirrels of the Glaucomys sabrinus (northern flying squirrel) variety included in the database of about 130 specimens.

Based on the longitude and latitude listed in the database, two of the Canadian specimens originated from B.C.’s Lower Mainland: One from Hope and one from Abbotsford.

ALSO READ: Important discovery in Wells Gray Park

Even more interesting are the years that some of the specimens, including the Canadian ones, were collected.

“According to the database, one of the specimens from B.C. was collected in 1894,” said Martin.

While the scientists who made the discovery think the fluorescence may be caused by some sort of protein in their fur, further research is needed to know for sure.

Northland College small animal expert Paula Spaeth Anich. (Submitted Photo)

“The next step would be to really dig into the location in the hair, the structure, the protein, as well as then the behaviour of these critters,” Martin said.

“Does this affect their fitness or is this just an artifact, some weird thing that happens when you live a nocturnal life? We don’t know, we don’t know.”



karissa.gall@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Sooke School trustee and VIHA both call for vaccine education in schools

A renewal of cultural memory is needed, says trustee

Greater Victoria teachers experienced more than 30 incidents of violence from students in one month

Shuttered behavioural programs, lack of resources creates challenges for local schools

Canadian alcohol policy gets failing grade from UVic researchers

Canadian provinces and territories collectively achieved less than half of their potential to reduce alcohol related harm

MISSING: 32-year-old Heather Limer last seen in Victoria

Limer was last seen in the 800-block of Johnson Street on Feb. 18

Sell regulated heroin to curb B.C.’s overdose problem: report

B.C. Centre on Substance Use points to organized crime and money-laundering as contributing factors

B.C. legislature moving suspended staff controversy to outside review

Whale watching, Seattle Mariners trips billed as emergency preparedness, Speaker Darryl Plecas says

More people signing up for compulsory vaccines

Maple Ridge mom says public tired of hearing about measles

Writing contest for teens

Students in grades 8 to 12 are invited to enter the Vancouver… Continue reading

UPDATE: Man charged in stabbing of woman, off-duty cop outside B.C. elementary school

Manoj George, 49, is facing two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of assault with a weapon after the incident on Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Federal fisheries minister calls for precautionary approach to fish farming

Government still reviewing Federal Court’s decision on PRV – Wilkinson

Why do zebras have stripes? Perhaps to dazzle away flies

Researchers from University of Bristol look into why zebras have stripes

Poll: More voters believe Canada doing worse under Trudeau government

22 per cent believed the country is doing better and 27 per cent said things are the same

HBC shuttering Home Outfitters across Canada

North America’s oldest retailer is revamping its various stores to improve profitability

Most Read