One of the most memorable characteristics of puffins are their beaks, known all over the world for their size and bright colors. However, there is something even more incredible about puffins that we did not know and that has been discovered by accident: its peaks shine under ultraviolet light.
The English ornithologist Jaime Dunning was experiencing a troublesome day in the laboratory. He had wondered for a while if the puffins could have fluorescent spikes, since the tufted puffball has it and they are in the same family. Suddenly, he decided to test his theory on a corpse of a puffin he had to study. He turned off the lights and put the puffin in the UV light.The two yellow stripes of the puffin’s beak lit up. Dunning told CBC that it was true fluorescence. In other words, something in those streaks of the puffin’s beak was allowing the light to be absorbed and remitted like a bright light. Therefore, Dunning had the answer to his question, but another had arisen: Why are they fluorescent?
Dunning says it’s obvious that the puffins used fluorescence for something, but he’s not sure what.
“The puffin’s beak has been forged for generations, during sexual selection for hundreds and thousands of years,” said Dunning. “There’s [a lot of significant at the peak]. That’s why it has so many colors and it’s so beautiful. “However, it has already ruled out that birds use fluorescence to see in the dark. What makes the peak shine reacts with UV light waves. These light waves are not present in the dark.
Although humans did not know that the tips of the puffins shine under UV light, it is possible that other birds do. This is because humans only see colors that are mixtures of red, blue and green light. Birds can see a fourth color, a characteristic called tetrachromatism.The next step is to find out if the peaks of live puffins also shine under UV light. Dunning has only tested the carcasses of birds and is not sure if this happens due to decomposition. To carry out the experiment without damaging the puffins, he has created “sunglasses” for the birds.The researchers will place the glasses over the eyes of the birds and then put them under UV light to see if their beaks shine. Dunning will publish a study on the fluorescence of puffin peaks with scientists at the University of New Brunswick.