Flying squirrels secretly glow pink
February 7, 2019 1:05 PM   Subscribe

Flying squirrels were already exceptional, as far as rodents go. Gifted with a flap of skin between their limbs, they can glide long distances between the trees where they live. But new research [abstract] suggests some of the critters hide a bizarre secret—their fur glows a brilliant, bubble-gum pink under ultraviolet light. The discovery happened entirely by accident when the paper's coauthor was doing an exploratory forest survey with an ultraviolet flashlight and happened to flash it at a nearby flying squirrel.
posted by not_the_water (19 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Clearly, they evolved for raves.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:07 PM on February 7, 2019 [13 favorites]

Pink squirrels on parade?
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:11 PM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I wonder if it's related at all to why World War II spy planes used pink camouflage...
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:16 PM on February 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

Pink Squirrel #1: 1 part creme de noyaux, 1 part light creme de cacao, 1 part half and half. Shake and strain into a chilled champagne shell.

Pink Squirrel #2: 1 flying squirrel, 1 UV light source. Shaking and straining not recommended...
posted by jim in austin at 1:22 PM on February 7, 2019 [12 favorites]

So, they cut power lines, try to kill elected officials, and they glow fluorescent pink under UV?

They're little furry anarchist punks.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:25 PM on February 7, 2019 [8 favorites]

Hokey smoke!
posted by SansPoint at 1:35 PM on February 7, 2019 [8 favorites]

Just think, if that flying squirrel that came in through my chimney had made its way to my Pink Floyd listening room, I would have discovered this years ago.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:37 PM on February 7, 2019 [5 favorites]

Where was this research when I was writing my seminal overview of the field (Flying Squirrels: An Animal Anomaly) in sixth grade?
posted by puffyn at 1:37 PM on February 7, 2019 [9 favorites]

In case they weren't cool enough already.
posted by Oyéah at 1:37 PM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I love this! It seems so unlikely that something so oddly remarkable about a well-known, popular mammal could go undiscovered for so long. It makes me want to buy a UV flashlight to carry with me when hiking.
posted by thoroughburro at 1:56 PM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Huh, weird. And now I wish I'd bought that old school portable tube UV light at the thrift store I saw the other day for a whole dollar.

Lots of plants and animals react to UV light in strange ways. One of the most notable are scorpions and related arachnids. If you really want to freak yourself out, bring a good, strong UV flashlight or tube light out into the deserts of the southwest and light it up and take a walk at night.

This all reminds me of one of favorite toys of all time. It was this cool little RGB LED flashlight toy by Color Kinetix called a Lightwand, back when blue LEDs were still brand new and pretty expensive. Instead of today's single package RGB lights it had three independent frosted LEDs inside a white translucent wand, like a miniature traffic wand.

Well, eventually I took off the frosted cone so I could just beam light from the LEDs directly at things like a small pocket sized tunable stage or accent light, a concept we're all pretty familiar with today with consumer stuff like RGB LED light bulbs you can control with wifi.

And one of things that made this toy so fun was how different things would look under different light - especially going out into nature. The early generation blue LED was just on the edge of UV so things would pop and fluoresce a little, and you could cycle and set the color mix as you inspected things which would make things stand out in cool ways.

I remember that it made it a lot easier to see things like the reflections from spider eyes or even mammals, or finding cool stones that reacted to the light, or even seeing how different plants or fungi would react to different mixes of light, especially the near-UV of the blue.

When in white mode with all three LEDs at max brightness the color balance was actually pretty smooth and warm with what is known in the lighting world as "high CRI" or visual fidelity and color balance from the light source, and the use of three point sources made things like reflections from animal or insect eyes pop a whole lot more.

It actually a very useful tool as a sort of tunable-spectrum pocket flashlight.

Another really cool thing about the light was because of the three separate LEDs, if you beamed the light off or through moving water or something like cut glass or textured glass, you'd get a light show from the three colors each bending in their own way and then mixing in and on the surfaces it lands on. It was so good I still want to build my own version of it or turn it into a light art project or installation

Anyway, I've always wanted a pocket light like this that could be tuned from deep UV to infrared with some high level of controllable brightness and focus from about 1000 lumens down to about 10 lumens or less. The super science fiction version of this might even be able to go from a laser to a safe, adjustable flood light.

A portable light source like this is actually a really cool and useful tool, indoors and outdoors. It could be used for all kinds of things from looking for stains and leaks to exploring the outdoors. It'd be great for photography and videography and other visual media and arts and all kinds of things.
posted by loquacious at 2:05 PM on February 7, 2019 [19 favorites]

I feel seen. Here's to all the other apparently boring squirrels who are at least a little brilliant bubblegum pink on the inside.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 2:06 PM on February 7, 2019 [11 favorites]

Prediction: Ig Nobel prize, 2019.
posted by eirias at 2:30 PM on February 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

Wait...what color is my fur *supposed* to glow? Is there something wrong with this?
posted by uosuaq at 3:04 PM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

look, why does human semen glow under uv light? unless god's ultimate plan was a lot of intense CSI TV scenes, these things just happen at random sometimes.
posted by GuyZero at 3:35 PM on February 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

That's just nuts!!!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 3:47 PM on February 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Not surprised. June Foray would never provide the voice for less than an awesome animal, although I'm disappointed that Jay Ward & Bill Scott animated Rocky so boringly.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:09 PM on February 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

Hmm. We actually already knew that Fox Squirrel bones glow pink under UV because of a genetic condition. I have to assume this is somehow related.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:13 AM on February 8, 2019 [5 favorites]

Loquacious, you can always build your own.

With components from mountain electronics and eBay, and fully open drivers from flashlight forums I've built:

A small, single 18650 battery bright flashlight that goes from 'moonlight' to 1,1000 lumens in 'turbo' (it gets HOT). Bad CRI, but amazing brightness and a long lens.

A triple led 'mule' (no lens to focus the beam, illuminates a soft broad area) with the highest CRI LEDs I could find. Great for looking and photographing small nature at night, with true colors, without blinding yourself or the neighbors.

A triple led one that was a PITA to get right. Two LED are deep red, almost infra, so as to preserve night vision and spy on dogs and racoons. One UV for reasons mentioned here.

I am not into RGB, but there are tons of projects to follow in the forums.
posted by Dr. Curare at 8:13 AM on February 18, 2019

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