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Researchers Find Fluorescent Tree Frog In Amazon Basin, Only Known Fluorescent Amphibian On Earth

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Fluorescent colors are very popular and are widely used for many unique things. To date, this glow-in-the-dark pigment has been seen to be naturally occurring in many plants and animals, except for frogs.

However, a team of Brazilian scientists, after extensive research and study, has found a tree frog in the forests of the Amazon basin. The frog has naturally occurring fluorescent colors as its body pigment. Currently, this newly discovered frog is the only known fluorescent amphibian in the world.

What Is Fluorescence?

Fluorescence is the discharge of light rays from a substance that has somehow absorbed light or any other electromagnetic radiation. Fluoresce can also be considered as a part of luminescence and has been applied in many things like gemology, medicine, cosmic-ray detection, dyes or colors and many more.

How Does The Frog Look?

The discovery took place by chance when researchers of Bernardino Rivadavia Natural Sciences Museum in Buenos Aires, while studying the pigments of South American polka-dotted tree frog (Hypsiboas punctatus), spotted the special trait in the animal.

The tree frog is a common species that is found in the continent, and herpetologists Julián Faivovich and Carlos Taboada were very much surprised that the frog radiated a bright green color instead of a red one.

While studying the tiny frog, which was found in the jungles of Sante Fe, the herpetologists discovered a pigment in the skin of the amphibian, which they deduced may result in fluorescence. In order to test this theory, the researchers pointed a black light on the frog and saw to their utter surprise that it turned from a dull yellow color sporting red spots, to a neon green one with dark spots.

Excited by this discovery, the researchers went on to conduct a thorough study of the frog's skin and discovered three different types of molecules, namely hyloin-L1, hyloin-L2, and hyloin-G1.

It was noted that each of these molecules came with a hydrocarbon chain and a ring, and is different from the molecules known for causing fluorescence. It was also discovered that these molecules permitted emission of loads of light, which could be compared to almost 18 percent as much as moonlight.

Future Studies And Plans

Although a major discovery has been made, the researchers are still not sure why the frogs are fluorescent in nature as they haven't been subjected to these studies previously. However, the researchers plan to study the photoreceptors in the frogs' eyes to figure out if these amphibians use fluorescence to their advantage at night for better vision.

Faivovich also plans to study almost 250 other tree frog species that come with translucent skin, like the polka-dotted frog, to find fluorescence.

"I'm really hoping that other colleagues will be very interested in this phenomenon, and they will start carrying a UV flashlight to the field," says Faivovich.

The study has been published in journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences under the name Naturally Occurring Fluorescence in Frogs.

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