BBC Earth (Asia) - - Update -

In reg­u­lar light, the com­mon South Amer­i­can tree frog doesn’t look like any­thing par­tic­u­larly spe­cial: it’s just a small pale green an­i­mal with a pat­tern of red spots dot­ted across its back. But put it in a UV spot­light and it turns into an am­phib­ian disco ball, with flu­o­res­cent light beam­ing from its body.

The un­usual prop­erty was dis­cov­ered by ac­ci­dent by re­searchers from Buenos Aires, Ar­gentina while they were study­ing other prop­er­ties of the frog’s colour­ing.

Natural flu­o­res­cence has been ob­served in sev­eral species of fish and tur­tles, but never be­fore in an am­phib­ian. The psy­che­delic glow-in-the-dark ef­fect oc­curs when short­wave light is ab­sorbed and then re-emit­ted at longer wave­lengths, and is caused by com­pounds called hy­loins found in the an­i­mal’s lymph and skin glands. It in­creases the frog’s bright­ness by around 20 per cent dur­ing a full moon, and around 30 per cent dur­ing twi­light.

The flu­o­res­cence oc­curs at a fre­quency of light that di­rectly matches the sen­si­tiv­ity of the frogs’ night vi­sion, mak­ing it likely that they can see the glow, the re­searchers say.

It turns out the South Amer­i­can tree frog glows un­der UV light. Its poi skills are still to be de­ter­mined…

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