Natural Day-Glo may play a role in amphibian’s fights and flirtations
C. Taboada et al/PNAS 2017
Could fluorescence matter to a frog? Carlos Taboada wondered. They don’t have bedroom black lights, but their glow may still be about the night moves.
Taboada’s question is new to herpetology. No one had shown fluorescence in amphibians, or in any land vertebrate except parrots, until he and colleagues recently tested South American polka dot tree frogs. Under white light, male and female Hypsiboas punctatus frogs have translucent skin speckled with dark dots. But when the researchers spotlighted the frogs with an ultraviolet flashlight, the animals glowed blue-green. The intensity of the glow was “shocking,” says Taboada of the Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales “Bernardino Rivadavia” in Buenos Aires.
And it is true fluorescence. Compounds in the frogs’ skin and lymph absorb the energy of shorter UV wavelengths and release it in longer