November 9, 2020 | Jerry Bergman

Platypus Glows in the Dark

New Discovery: The Platypus Glows in the Dark!
And so do many other animals – another conundrum for Darwinism.

by Jerry Bergman, PhD

Often called the world’s most puzzling animal, the platypus is one of the strangest creatures existing today. It is an “enigmatic mélange of reptilian (or birdlike), with obvious mammalian, characters,” said Stephen Jay Gould.[1] The platypus possesses unique features and genes not typical of mammals, or even reptiles and birds, but is classified as a mammal only because it has fur, and the females suckle their young after they hatch from the eggs the female lays.[2] Actually, it is a mosaic of a mammal that lays eggs, sports a duck-like bill and webbed feet, uses electroreception to find food, has a body and short legs like a Dachshund dog, and wields a venomous spur like a snake.[3] In short, “The platypus is nature’s crazy quilt, as this strange creature looks like about a half-dozen different animals all rolled into one.”[4] Although long believed to be “an undeveloped or inefficient relative to placental mammals,” we now know it is “a superbly engineered creature … an elegant solution for mammalian life in streams—not a primitive relic of a bygone world.”[5]

Figure 1. Duck-billed Platypuses. Notice this fur-covered mammal has a duckbill, webbed duck feet and a body with short legs like a Dachshund. From Wikimedia Commons.

They Glow in the Dark

Anich et al., writing in Mammalia, analyzed three museum platypus specimens (two males and one female) for the ability to glow in UV light. They discovered that the enigmatic platypus has yet another unique trait: they can glow in the dark like fungi, some fish, phytoplankton, opossums, some mammals like flying squirrels, some reptiles and amphibians, and at least one species of tardigrade.

Speaking of tardigrades, they are also weird creatures. Sometimes called water bears, these eight-legged segmented micro-animals are one of the strangest-looking animals God ever made.[6] Magnified, a tardigrate looks like a creature from outer space with its plunger shaped snout which it uses to suck juices out of mosses and lichens. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. The tardigrade, a water-dwelling micro-creature that measures less than half a millimeter long. From Wikimedia Commons.

Glowing in the Dark

When ultraviolet (UV) light shines on the platypus pelt (which is brown in visible light) it absorbs UV wavelengths between 200 and 400 nanometers. It then gives off visible light between 500 and 600 nanometers (green or cyan to us); an optical process called fluorescence. This is similar to how fluorescent lights work; they absorb one wavelength and emit a different wavelength.[7] The researchers assumed that the fluorescence observed is not a property of museum specimens due to preservation techniques, a possibility that was not ruled out.

The proposed function of the trait was to help them see other platypuses in low-light environments. This is important because platypuses, and biofluorescent flying squirrels and opossums, are all active during the dim hours of dawn, dusk, and night.[8] Furthermore, platypuses have UV-sensitive vision, so they can see and interact with each other at night. Conversely, they are less visible to animals that do not have UV vision, as is true of many of their predators. Thus, the researchers explain platypus biofluorescence as likely an evolutionary adaptation to low-light conditions where UV fluorescence may be particularly important to nocturnal mammals. If so, why haven’t most or all other mammals evolved this trait? Why is the platypus part of a very exclusive club: one of only three known biofluorescent mammals?

Available from the Creation Science Association of Alberta

The evolution of platypuses has stymied Darwinists, as has the evolution of all marsupials.[9] Darwinists have not even been able to postulate possible evolutionary precursors, as I document in my new book on animals.[10] The problem for evolutionists is that this trait is scattered here and there in the known life-forms that have it. Biofluorescence in flying squirrels and in no other rodent? Why squirrels? Why opossums?

The ones that have it are all nocturnal-crepuscular (active primarily during the twilight period) mammals, but crepuscular animals also include jaguars, ocelots, bobcats, servals, strepsirrhines, red pandas, bears, deer, moose, sitatunga, capybaras, chinchillas, bats, hamsters, housecats, stray dogs, rabbits, ferrets, rats, the common mouse, skunks, most squirrels, Australian wombats, wallabies, quolls, the common mouse, skunks,  marsupial gliders, tenrecs, spotted hyenas, African wild dogs and many others.[11] Do any of these glow in the dark under UV radiation? Apparently not. No trend exists in animals known to have this trait as we would expect in the evolutionary descent-with-modification view. The only explanation is that the trait must have evolved independently many times.

Both males and females appear to exhibit this trait, indicating it was not sexually selected. Also, the researchers assumed that the fluorescence observed was not a property of museum specimens in general. It could be unique to the three specimens examined. A sample of at least two score pelts need to be examined to generalize the finding. Furthermore, the chemical or chemicals that produce the fluorescence and the genetic mechanism required to add it to the integument material should be studied. Glowing integuments include not only hair but the coverings of the diverse life forms that exhibit biofluorescence, including fungi, phytoplankton fish, opossums, reptiles and amphibians, and at least one species of tardigrades.

The researchers feel confident that the trait is real in the wild platypus. They state, “While most past research on mammalian biofluorescence has been based on the study of museum specimens, live animals with biofluorescent pelage have been observed, validating collection-based research (Meisner 1983; Kohler et al. 2019).” They point out, for instance, that both living opossums and museum specimens have been shown to exhibit biofluorescence.

Its Evolution: Not a clue!

Darwinists propose without evidence that

Monotremes, marsupials, and placental mammals (eutherians) split off from a common ancestor some 150 million years ago, when the Triassic was coming to a close. That … [is a very long time ago], as the descendants of this evolutionary divorce had to then fight their way through the ensuing Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, not to mention the mass extinction that wiped out all non-avian dinosaurs. That’s a lot of time and lot of possible evolution.[12]

“Possible” evolution? Given this amount of time in their scenario—150 million years—surely some evidence must exist of their slow evolutionary journey from their common ancestor. The fact is, the platypus poses insurmountable problems for Darwinism and eloquently supports the creation worldview.[13] Many proposals for the platypus’s evolutionary ancestors or evolutionary descendants have been offered, but not one is even close to fitting the facts. This conclusion agrees with Pascual, et al.’s finding in 2002, namely: evolutionary relationships of “Monotremata have been widely debated in recent years, with little apparent consensus.”[14] The antiquity of the platypus remains unsolved due to complete lack of plausible fossil evidence and its “weird mixture of reptilian and mammalian traits.”[15]

The platypus is an excellent example of Walter ReMine’s creation model which proposes that the natural biological world was created to look like it was designed, not evolved. That is the “biotic message” found in creation which ReMine has documented with many examples. The message is clear, he concludes, if the biological evidence is studied objectively.[16] The new discovery of biofluorescence must be explained not just for the platypus but for the wide variety of life-forms that have it. Since they all have very different integumentary systems, to believe that they separately acquired biofluorescence by “convergent evolution” multiplies the difficulties for Darwinists.

Summary

This new discovery, if it proves valid, adds to the uniqueness of the duck-billed platypus. It raises a conundrum for evolutionists whether this trait was inherited from a common ancestor, or instead evolved independently many times in the scattered creatures that possess the trait today. Another question for future research is, what is the genetic and chemical basis of the trait?

Figure 3. A duck-billed platypus has a body and short legs like a Dachshund. Credit: Dogster.com.

References

[1] Gould, Stephen Jay. 1991. Bully for Brontosaurus: Reflections in Natural History. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., p. 270.

[2] Warren, W., et al. 2008. Genome analysis of the platypus reveals unique signatures of evolution. Nature 453:175-183, May; Finkel, E. 2008. Genome speaks to transitional nature of monotremes. Science 320:730, May 9.

[3] Dvorsky, George. 2020a. As If the Platypus Couldn’t Get Any Weirder. GIZMODO, October 30. https://gizmodo.com/as-if-the-platypus-couldn-t-get-any-weirder-1845529134.

[4] Dvorsky, 2020a.

[5] Gould, 1991, p. 277.

[6] Dvorsky, George. 2020b. Newly Discovered Glowing Tardigrade Is Weirdly Resistant to Lethal Doses of UV Radiation. GIZMODO, October 14. https://gizmodo.com/newly-discovered-glowing-tardigrade-is-weirdly-resistan-1845371712.

[7] Anich, Paula Spaeth, et al.. 2020. Biofluorescence in the platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus). Mammalia, September 8. https://www.degruyter.com/view/journals/mamm/ahead-of-print/article-10.1515-mammalia-2020-0027/article-10.1515-mammalia-2020-0027.xml

[8] Anich, 2020.

[9] Bergman, Jerry. 2020. Wonderful and Bizarre: Life Forms in Creation. Edmonton, Alberta: Creation Science Association of Alberta, Canada. Chapter 11–Marsupials: Evolutionary Conundrum.

[10] Bergman, 2020

[11] “Crepuscular animal.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crepuscular_animal

[12] Dvorsky, 2020a. Italics added.

[13]  Mehlert, A.W. 1990. The mystery of the mammals, monotremes and marsupials: A menace to evolutionism. Ex Nihilo Technical Journal, Volume 4, pp. 103-107.

[14] Pascual, R., et al. 2002. New data on the paleocene monotreme Monotrematum sudamericanum, and the convergent evolution of triangulate molars. Acta Palaeontology Polonica 47(3):487-492, p. 487.

[15] Griffiths, M. 1988. The Platypus. Scientific American 258(5):84-91, p. 91.

[16] ReMine, Walter James. 1993. The Biotic Message: Evolution Versus Message Theory. St. Paul, MN: Saint Paul Science.


Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.

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