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Fluorescent Millipedes Discovered on Alcatraz


Millipedes that glow under black lights have been discovered for the first time on Alcatraz. 

“There are other millipedes out there that are bioluminescent — they give off their own light,” said Bob Kimsey, an entomology professor at the University of California, Davis, who is investigating whether the fluorescent millipedes are a newly discovered subspecies of Xystocheir dissecta, a species found in the Bay Area and elsewhere. “But this is a fundamentally different thing here. If you shine the black light on them, then some property of their exoskeleton takes that light and converts it into a bluish-green light and then emits it back."

In an odd twist, the creatures were discovered during a nighttime rat census. Scientists were using black lights to look for fluorescent dye that had been placed in rat bait. Instead of glowing rat droppings, they found the millipedes, Thibault Worth of KQED's "Quest" reports.

Fun fact: "California is known for being the only place in the world with bioluminescent millipedes," Worth writes.

Compare the critters under black light and regular light, below:

Fluorescent Alcatraz millipede glowing

Fluorescent Alcatraz millipede not glowing

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