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

(Submitted Photo)

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

Firefighters extinguish early-morning blaze in Rossland

Neighbour alerted family of four, no injuries reported

Rescued snowmobilers ill-prepared for emergency, Castlegar RCMP say

Two men rescued Wednesday night were not ready for overnight in back country

Senior curling provincials setting up for exciting finish

Standings tight as Senior curling teams push for provincial playoffs

Police share more details on occupants and suspicious van in Fruitvale

Vehicle in question offered young girl a ride to school on Feb. 19

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

No treatment for highly infectious measles, says doctor

10 cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver as of Friday

Two more measles cases confirmed in Vancouver

It brings the number of total cases within the city connected to the outbreak to ten

B.C. Special Olympics officially underway in Vernon

Athlete’s Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Vancouver Aquarium wants your help to name a baby killer whale

The public helped name Springer’s first calf, Spirit, and is being asked to help with the second

Guards protest firing of fellow officers charged with assault at B.C. prison

Corrections officers demonstrated in Maple Ridge on Friday afternoon

Skier dies at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Cause of death for young man has not been released

R. Kelly charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse

R&B star has been accused of sexual misconduct involving women and underage girls for years

More sailings coming to 10 BC Ferries’ routes

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said the sailings were originally cut in 2014

Most Read