Does PZ Myers glow in the dark? (Spiders and bunnys and oh my…)

dewy_spider_web.jpgPharyngula, that astonishingly detailed window into the mind of PZ Myers, has a fascinating post up about bioluminescent spiders — mostly a description a paper that does a taxonomy of spiders that glow. (No open internet access: Andrews K, Reed SM, Masta SE (2007) Spiders fluoresce variably across many taxa. Biology Letters 3(3):265-267.)

Myers buries the lede, imho: at the end of his post he takes issue with the original paper’s authors about whether or not fluorescence as seen across spider taxa is a target for natural selection. Myers takes the “no” side, saying,

Fluorophores are ubiquitous, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the spider fluorophore was simply an incidental property of something like spider hemocyanin, and its deposition pattern is a neutral phenomenon.


“Alba”, the green fluorescent bunny, is an albino rabbit. This means that, since she has no skin pigment, under ordinary environmental conditions she is completely white with pink eyes. Alba is not green all the time. She only glows when illuminated with the correct light. When (and only when) illuminated with blue light (maximum excitation at 488 nm), she glows with a bright green light (maximum emission at 509 nm). She was created with EGFP, an enhanced version (i.e., a synthetic mutation) of the original wild-type green fluorescent gene found in the jellyfish Aequorea Victoria. EGFP gives about two orders of magnitude greater fluorescence in mammalian cells (including human cells) than the original jellyfish gene [2].

The first phase of the “GFP Bunny” project was completed in February 2000 with the birth of “Alba” in Jouy-en-Josas, France. This was accomplished with the invaluable assistance of zoosystemician Louis Bec [3] and scientists Louis-Marie Houdebine and Patrick Prunet [4]. (see link for references)

Explore posts in the same categories: Art and science, Who thought that was a good idea?

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