Photoluminescence in mammal fur: 111 years of research

Reinhold, Linda M., Rymer, Tasmin L., Helgen, Kristofer M., and Wilson, David T. (2023) Photoluminescence in mammal fur: 111 years of research. Journal of Mammalogy, 104 (4). pp. 892-906.

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Photoluminescence in the pelage of mammals, a topic that has gained considerable recent research interest, was first documented in the 1700s and reported sporadically in the literature over the last century. The first detailed species accounts were of rabbits and humans, published 111 years ago in 1911. Recent studies have largely overlooked this earlier research into photoluminescent mammalian taxa and their luminophores. Here we provide a comprehensive update on existing research on photoluminescence in mammal fur, with the intention of drawing attention to earlier pioneering research in this field. We provide an overview on appropriate terminology, explain the physics of photoluminescence, and explore pigmentation and the ubiquitous photoluminescence of animal tissues, before touching on the emerging debate regarding visual function. We then provide a chronological account of research into mammalian fur photoluminescence, from the earliest discoveries and identification of luminophores to the most recent studies. While all mammal fur is likely to have a general low-level photoluminescence due to the presence of the protein keratin, fur glows luminously under ultraviolet light if it contains significant concentrations of tryptophan metabolites or porphyrins. Finally, we briefly discuss issues associated with preserved museum specimens in studies of photoluminescence. The study of mammal fur photoluminescence has a substantial history, which provides a broad foundation on which future studies can be grounded.

Item ID: 80332
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1545-1542
Keywords: fluorescence, hair, luminophore, pelage, phosphorescence, ultraviolet
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Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society of Mammalogists. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2023 04:18
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3109 Zoology > 310914 Vertebrate biology @ 80%
51 PHYSICAL SCIENCES > 5199 Other physical sciences > 519999 Other physical sciences not elsewhere classified @ 20%
SEO Codes: 28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280102 Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences @ 100%
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