Wombats and other Australian mammals glow in UV light

A wombat glows under ultraviolet light. Credit: Western Australia Museum

When researchers accidentally discovered that platypuses glow under ultraviolet light, it sent scientists scrambling to see what other creatures might secretly do the same. At the Western Australia Museum, scientists pulled out their specimens and found that platypuses (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) aren’t the only surprising species with bioluminescence. Shining a UV light on other specimens, including a wombat (Vombatidae spp.) and a bilby (Macrotis lagotis), they found that other Australian mammals also glow.

But why?

“The benefit is probably so they can see their species from a distance, and they can approach them because they know that it is safe to go towards that animal,” museum curator Kenny Travouillon told Australia’s ABC radio.

A team at the Toledo Zoo found Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) are also bioluminescent, Newsweek reports.