These Incredible Cute Rodents Change Color Under UV Light
Scientists have discovered a vivid porphyrin-based biofluorescence in two species of springhares, Pedetes capensis and Pedetes surdaster.
One of the more peculiar and rarest traits in the animal kingdom is the ability to glow in the dark. Some animals, including deep-sea fish and fireflies, are able to produce light in the visible spectrum. This is called bioluminescence, and it’s quite rare, but there’s another type of luminescence that some animals possess which we can’t see with our naked eyes. It’s called biofluorescence, and it’s the ability of an animal to glow under specific light conditions, like UV light.
In images captured by the scientists, the fluffy rodents look almost otherworldly. Patches of their fur light up in bright colors with no discernable pattern. However, the fact that the lighted parts of the fur break up the outline of the animal’s body may be a clue as to its usefulness.
“Springhares are predominantly solitary and tend to forage in more open areas with sparse vegetation and, therefore, have greater exposure to predators due to the lack of cover or group vigilance,” the paper reads. “Thus, we hypothesize that the patchiness of biofluorescence in springhares could function as a camouflage of sorts, but this would depend on the UV sensitivity of their predators.”
So, a UV-sensitive predator might be confused by the pattern it sees and struggle to follow or attack the rodents. That would be a very useful trait, and while it remains unproven, it seems like the most likely possibility while we wait for further research to be conducted.