Sometime ago I exhorted Science to add the gene for luminosity to sheep, thereby enabling the more efficient production of luminous socks.
Have they listened? Did they jump on this idea that could save a failing wool industry? No.
Instead they have been larking around adding a manipulated fluorescent protein (RFP) gene to Turkish Angora cats to make glow in the dark felines. Now I can see many advantages to this, for example, not tripping over the damned animal when you get up in the middle of the night to quaff lemonade.
The gene they chose to use, however, requires an external UV light source and a white cat to produce the effect. What use is that? If you have a UV light source with you on your midnight expedition then you are unlikely to be tripping over the cat in the first place.
Adding the gene from jellyfish, on the other hand, produces a gentle green glow naturally without the need for UV light. It seems to me that this added to your average sheep would produce a number of benefits.
1) Basic camouflage for sheep to help them blend into the background of the fields in the face of increased rustling. Rustling tends to take place at dawn, so the light levels will produce just a very gentle glow. This in turn will allow the sheep to blend into the green of the landscape, making it harder to round them up.
2) Socks that would only be luminous in the evening and clubbing. Let’s face it, you don’t want socks to be actually luminous until the right situation i.e. in the dark. This basic genetic modification would allow the socks to be unobtrusive during the day and to glow gently in light-less situations.
3) A flexible rural lighting system that would not add to light pollution allowing me to gaze at the stars and make my way safely home at night. As the sheep tend to move away from me* in the direction of my route home (see my paper on sheep directional movement in the Agricultural Science Review) this would produce a halo of luminosity going forward.
So scientists, put the cats down and get on with crossing jellyfish with sheep.
*As useful as this is, it is hard not to take it personally.
(Note: Inspiration for the original thought came from Sheldon’s plan to create fish night lights in Big Bang Theory. I would be up for those too.)