Here's What Makes The Newly-Discovered Fluorescent Frog Glow

17 March 2017, 12:30 pm EDT By Joshua King Tech Times
The recently discovered fluorescent South American Polka Doted tree frog has surprised scientists and they have finally found how it glows. The fluorescence is attributed to special molecules found in the frog's skin.  ( Nature )

The South American polka dot tree frog generally emits a subtle, greenish-brown glow, but stick it under a fluorescent light and it all changes.

The frog glows with 18 percent "of a full moon's light" and appears bright fluorescent green.

What Have Scientists Found?

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) conducted a study where it observed the phenomenon of fluorescence in the frog's skin. The researchers have attributed this phenomena to the compounds secreted by the frog's lymph glands and skin.

"We were not expecting this bio-fluorescence. It was an incredible surprise," shared Dr. Norberto Peporine Lopes, the study coordinator of PNAS, to Chemistry World.

Scientists believe that this is a huge leap towards understanding frogs and amphibians.

Fluorescent animals absorb light and emit it again at different wavelengths. This is different from the behavior of bioluminescent animals such as anglerfish and fireflies, who generate their own light.

Fluorescence has been observed in the past in sharks, turtles and other aquatic animals, but never before in frogs. No wonder scientists are excited by the discovery.

It was by chance, that scientists discovered this trait. Researchers from a museum in Buenos Aires had been studying the pigments of the South American Polka dot tree frog, when they discovered this wondrous trait in the amphibian.

What Is Responsible For The Fluorescence?

At the beginning of the research into discovering the polka dot tree frog's pigment, scientists expected to fight red fluorescence. This was because these frogs contain a chemical called biliverdin, which bonds with proteins and lends fluorescent capabilities to some insects.

But Hypsiboas punctatus, which is the scientific name of the frog, surprisingly glowed bright green under the fluorescent light.

"We couldn't believe it," recounted herpetologist Julián Faivovich, another team member.

In-depth analysis revealed that three types of molecules, hyloin-L1, hyloin-L2 and hyloin-G1 were the cause of this strange luminescence. Each molecule has a hydrocarbon chain and a separate ring. This is different in nature from the molecule. The chain and ring are what cause fluorescence in the animal.

These molecules allow light to be emitted and is almost equal to 18 percent of moonlight; therefore, lending a bright glow to the frog. Dr. Lopes further elaborated that these molecules were commonly found in fluorescent animals. However, there it is not known what use these molecules may have.

Frogs are on the brink of being threatened and scientists and conservationists have constantly been devising new methods, as well as persevering to enable the frogs to thrive and adapt in the changing environment.

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