(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

Big Changes to Kelowna’s Fat Cat

“We wanted to revitalize the event”

Plenty to do for families this Easter in the Central Okanagan

If you like chocolate, we have some events you might like in Kelowna

One-third of Kelowna residents experienced crime in the last year

Only half of those who were victimized reported it to police.

100 years of success to be celebrated for Peachland Fall Fair

The fall fair in the Central Okanagan has been ongoing to a century

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: The rain clouds will move on

Environment Canada is forecasting a mixed bag of conditions

South Okanagan city unites for candlelight vigil honouring shooting victims

Hundreds gathered to support the grieving family & friends of the victims from the April 15 shooting

Three climbers presumed dead after avalanche in Banff National Park

One of the men is American and the other two are from Europe, according to officials

Two recommendations made in probe of B.C. train derailment that killed three

The CP Rail train went off the tracks near the B.C.-Alberta border in February

VIDEO: Trump tried to seize control of Mueller probe, report says

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report revealed to a waiting nation Thursday

Short-circuit likely caused Notre Dame fire: police official

Investigators made an initial assessment of the cathedral but can’t yet search charred interior

Whitecaps fans stage walkout over club’s response to allegations against B.C. coach

Soccer coach has been suspended by Coastal FC since February

Vancouver Island cat jumps from fourth floor to escape fire

Blueberry was missing after the fire but has been found

Dryer fire forces evacuation of Vernon business

Fire crews are on scene of a dryer fire in Vernon

BC Ferries to pilot selling beer and wine on select sailings

Drinks from select B.C. breweries and VQA wineries will be available on the Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen route

Most Read