(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

Grad march goes ahead with social distancing measures

‘Reverse march’ for 2020 DTSS grads

Wings Over the Rockies encourages nature viewing during pandemic

Three local photographers and Wings supporters offer nature viewing tips.

Hospital chief of staff provides guidance on COVID-19 and the Columbia Valley as we open up

Chief of staff says: “COVID-19 … is still here and is not going away any time soon.”

Our community news matters

Guest editorial by Arnold Malone

The GoPro that refused to drown

A snorkler found a submerged GoPro and used the camera footage to find the owners

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

Nanaimo senior clocked going 50 km/hr over limit says her SUV shouldn’t be impounded

RCMP say they can’t exercise discretion when it comes to excessive speeding tickets

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

CMHC sees declines in home prices, sales, starts that will linger to end of 2022

CMHC said average housing prices could fall anywhere from nine to 18 per cent in its forecast

B.C. Paralympian named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Three-time world and Paralympic gold medalist Sonja Gaudet is part of 11-member class

Most Read