One spring night in Wisconsin, biologist John Martin saw a hot pink squirrel fly by. It was a southern flying squirrel, which usually has a warm brown color. But in the beam of Martin’s ultraviolet flashlight, it sported a Day-Glo hue. His colleagues were skeptical. But after examining more than 100 specimens of flying squirrels and spotting five more squirrels under UV light, the researchers reported surprising results in the Journal of Mammalogy: The pink is real. Three different species of flying squirrel turned that color under ultraviolet illumination.

Climate change will alter color of oceans

By the end of the century, if not sooner, oceans will be bluer and greener because of warming climate, scientists reported. And while the shift in color will be all but imperceptible to the human eye, it could hint at the profound changes in store for marine life. At the heart of the phenomenon lie tiny marine microorganisms called phytoplankton, which are crucial to ocean food webs and to the global cycling of carbon — and sensitive to temperature. Climate change will fuel the blooming of some phytoplankton in some areas, while reducing it in other spots, leading to subtle changes in the ocean’s appearance. “Color is going to be one of the early signals,” said Stephanie Dutkiewicz, an MIT research scientist and a co-author of the study in Nature Communications. Why does that matter? Phytoplankton are the base of the food web, she said, and they are extremely diverse. If certain kinds begin to vanish from the ocean, she said, “it will change the type of fish that will be able to survive.” Those kinds of changes could reverberate up the food chain.

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