Erik R. Olson , 1 , Michaela R. Carlson 1 , V. M. Sadagopa Ramanujam 2 , Lindsay Sears 3 , Sharon E. Anthony 1 , Paula Spaeth Anich 1 , Leigh Ramon 4 , Alissa Hulstrand 1 , Michaela Jurewicz 1 , Adam S. Gunnelson 1 , Allison M. Kohler 1 , 5 , Jonathan G. Martin 1
18 February 2021
Biofluorescence has been detected in several nocturnal-crepuscular organisms from invertebrates to birds and mammals. Biofluorescence in mammals has been detected across the phylogeny, including the monotreme duck-billed platypus ( Ornithorhyncus anatinus), marsupial opossums (Didelphidae), and New World placental flying squirrels ( Gluacomys spp.). Here, we document vivid biofluorescence of springhare (Pedetidae) in both museum specimens and captive individuals—the first documented biofluorescence of an Old World placental mammal. We explore the variation in biofluorescence across our sample and characterize its physical and chemical properties. The striking visual patterning and intensity of color shift was unique relative to biofluorescence found in other mammals. We establish that biofluorescence in springhare likely originates within the cuticle of the hair fiber and emanates, at least partially, from several fluorescent porphyrins and potentially one unassigned molecule absent from our standard porphyrin mixture. This discovery further supports the hypothesis that biofluorescence may be ecologically important for nocturnal-crepuscular mammals and suggests that it may be more broadly distributed throughout Mammalia than previously thought.