By Douglas Main
A plan to eliminate rats on Alcatraz, home to the famous old prison in San Francisco Bay, led to the discovery of an unfamiliar glowing creature never before seen on the island.
In early 2012, National Park Service employees placed a non-toxic dye into food for rats to eat; the dye makes the animals excrete fluorescent droppings that glow under black lights, making it easier to track the rodents. A group of workers and volunteers from the UC Davis' entomology club canvassed the island using black lights to search for evidence of rats, which threaten populations of birds on the Rock.
Instead of glowing rat droppings, however, the researchers found something else that glowed under their lights — and it was alive. Closer investigation revealed small, fluorescent millipedes, said UC Davis entomologist Robert Kimsey, whose student Alexander Nguyen is studying what makes the creatures glow. . . .
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