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Scientist in England discover that Puffin beaks glow under UV light.

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Old Monday 9th April 2018, 18:41   #1
mikal
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Scientist in England discover that Puffin beaks glow under UV light.

He happened to have a Puffin carcass laying around his lab, and he happens to shine a UV light onto it, and accidentally discovers that the beak glows. LOL.

He's not sure why it glows, only speculating it may have been used to attract a mate.

Article here: Puffin beaks are fluorescent

Last edited by mikal : Tuesday 10th April 2018 at 00:35.
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Old Monday 9th April 2018, 19:49   #2
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Hi Mikal,

Quote:
Originally Posted by mikal View Post
He's not sure why it glows, only speculating it may have been used to attract a mate.
Quite fascinating, many thanks for sharing the link!

This really gets me thinking: As birds can actually see one well-defined colour in the wider UV band, I suspect saying that "birds have always known about the extra colours in the puffin bill" is simplifying things a bit too far.

What humans can see is that the bill is reflecting more light in the human-visible spectrum than "it ought to". It might be that to birds, the same applies to their extra colour, as part of the UV band is invisible to birds, too.

Basically, the Puffin's beak features the equivalent of a black-light paint colouration.

To translate the bird's experience into human terms, imagine the beak shining bright red if you point a blue spotlight at it.

I would think that's a conspicious visual effect, even if you can see the "incoming" light, and in my opinion, it's a fair analogy of how birds might perceive the Puffin beak's "extra colours". It's really more like "extra intensity", probably.

(Maybe fluorescent safety vests can be used as an illustration for this: They don't stand out because they're orange, they stand out because they're more intensely orange than they would be without being able to transpose UV light into orange light.)

Regards,

Henning
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Old Monday 9th April 2018, 21:49   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikal View Post
He happened to have Puffin carcass laying around his lab, and he happens to shine a UV light onto it, and accidentally discovers that the beak glows. LOL.

He's not sure why it glows, only speculating it may have been used to attract a mate.

Article here: Puffin beaks are fluorescent
Fascinating. Perhaps best interpreted as an addition to the already over-the-top mandibular ornamentation of this (obviously) beak-centric species.
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Old Monday 9th April 2018, 21:56   #4
Hauksen
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Hi,

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Originally Posted by fugl View Post
Fascinating. Perhaps best interpreted as as addition to the already over-the-top mandibular ornamentation of this (obviously) beak-centric species.
Nicely put :-)

It would be interesting to check whether the effect is also present on the beaks of juvenile individuals. If it is, it might actually serve a purpose (or be a side effect of something else) different from ornamentation.

I strongly suspect you've hit the nail on the head, though.

Regards,

Henning
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Old Monday 9th April 2018, 22:09   #5
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Is this totally new information? I have to admit I thought I already knew this.
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Old Tuesday 10th April 2018, 00:34   #6
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Is this totally new information? I have to admit I thought I already knew this.
Apparently another bird (crested auklets) in the same family was known to also have glowing beaks but Puffins is a new discovery...
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Old Tuesday 10th April 2018, 00:38   #7
mikal
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Hi,



Nicely put :-)

It would be interesting to check whether the effect is also present on the beaks of juvenile individuals. If it is, it might actually serve a purpose (or be a side effect of something else) different from ornamentation.

I strongly suspect you've hit the nail on the head, though.

Regards,

Henning
What a great point. I would love to see if there's a difference in beak glow variation in juvenile birds vs adults.
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