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The fur of golden moles has multiple layers that act as reflectors similar to the "eye shine" of nocturnal mammals.
The moles are completely blind, so the iridescence likely serves a function other than communication.
The microscopic structure of the hairs may facilitate the mole's movement underground through dirt and sand.
Aside from the “eye shine” of nocturnal mammals, seen when a headlight or flashlight strikes their eyes, the discovery marks the first known instance of iridescence in a mammal. The findings, published in the latest Royal Society Biology Letters, reveal yet another surprise: the golden moles are completely blind, so they cannot even see their gorgeous fur.
For the study, the scientists pulled hairs from specimens of four golden mole species. Using high tech equipment, such as scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy, the researchers analyzed the structure of the hairs, down to their smallest elements.
The researchers determined that the hairs are indeed luminescent. They further discovered that each hair has a flattened shape with reduced cuticular scales that provide a broad and smooth surface for light reflection. The scales form multiple layers of light and dark materials of consistent thickness, very similar to those seen in iridescent beetles.