Sheep Trip

“From another direction he felt the sensation of being a sheep startled by a flying saucer, but it was virtually indistinguishable from the feeling of being a sheep startled by anything else it ever encountered, for they were creatures who learned very little on their journey through life, and would be startled to see the sun rising in the morning, and astonished by all the green stuff in the fields.”

—Douglas Adams

And now they glow in the dark. No, really. Okay, only sort of:

Scientists in Uruguay have genetically modified sheep to glow in the dark. The fluorescent sheep are a world first, the scientists report.

GlowSheep-greenThe flock of nine lambs was born last October at a farm belonging to the Animal Reproduction Institute of Uruguay, an nonprofit organization affiliated with the Pasteur Institute’s genetically modified animals unit. The laboratory incorporated a green fluorescence protein into the genes of the sheep, which will glow when exposed to certain ultraviolet light, making the the ruminants easily identifiable as genetically modified.

Other than glowing green in UV light, the sheep look and behave normally. Scientists modified the sheep’s genes with the fluorescent protein of the Aequarea jellyfish.

“We did not use a protein of medical interest or to help with a particular medicine because we wanted to fine-tune the technique. We used the green protein because the color is easily identifiable in the sheep’s tissues,” said Alejo Menchaca, the head of the research team.

And there you have it.

(We might also note that it makes a decent pitch to the younger generation: Study hard, and you, too, can make random animals glow in the dark. I mean, come on, with that kind of career path? Boundless potential.)