The rodent popularly known as a pocket gopher can glow, it turns out, but only if you shine a UV light on it. The discovery was detailed in a new study from the University of Georgia, which reports that these underground-dwelling rodents are, in fact, biofluorescent. How was the discovery made? Some curious researchers shined a UV light on various rodents to see which of them lit up.
Pocket gophers are small, temperamental, and they live underground in regions that have sandy soil. They also, it turns out, present an interesting orange-pink color when exposed to ultraviolet light — though, the researchers note, they’re not the only rodent with this unique hidden superpower.
According to the researchers, they became intrigued by the idea due to previous studies that found similar fluorescent effects with opossums and flying squirrels. Using that research as inspiration, the researchers starting shining a UV light on different animals they had available, one of which was the pocket gopher.
As with the flying squirrel and the opossum, the pocket gophers lit up under the UV light, adding them to the list of biofluorescent rodents. The discovery was made in 2019 during what the university teases was “a bit of thing in certain scientific circles,” referring to figuring out which critters glow under ultraviolet rays.
Why do gophers — as well as some spiders, scorpions, and other creatures — glow under UV light? No one knows at this time, though there’s speculation that this unique ability may have evolved for purposes ranging from communication to protection. Regardless, the next time you see one of these rodents, shine a blacklight at it and enjoy the show.