Scientists Discover First Fluorescent Frog By Accident

The first fluorescent frog in the world was found in South America by accident.

A chance discovery:

Researchers at Buenos Aires’ Bernardino Rivadavia Natural Sciences Museum discovered the frog while studying pigment in polka dot tree frogs, which are abundant in the continent. The frogs have a dull coloring in normal circumstances, but beneath an ultraviolet (UV) light, they glow bright blue and green.

Fluorescence is the ability to take in light at short wavelengths and re-emit it at longer wavelengths. It can be observed in several ocean creatures but it’s incredibly rare on land, some scorpions and parrots were only known to possess it until now. This frog is the first amphibian with that trait.

Scientists are not sure why some creatures are fluorescent; they could be communicating, attracting mates, or concealing themselves.

Initially, scientists thought the frog might glow a faint red due to the presence of a pigment called biliverdin that gives some insects a slight red fluorescence. But when they exposed the frog to UV light, they were amazed to see the brown-green frogs glow bright green and blue instead.

The polka dot tree frogs hail from Santa Fe, Argentina area.

On March 13th, their research was published by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Maria Gabriella Lagoria, the study’s co-author told Chemistry World: “This is very different from fluorophores found in other vertebrates, which are usually proteins or polyenic chains.”

Walking around with UV light:

Co-author Julián Faivovich told Nature: “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,” as there could be even more fluorescent frogs that we haven’t discovered yet.

He plans to seek fluorescence in 250 other tree frog species that have translucent skin like the polka dot tree frog.