Science published a study on Thursday detailing how certain frogs in South and Central America have the unique ability to toggle between a virtually translucent look and a normal one. While sleeping, glassfrogs remove their red blood cells from their circulation and hide them in their livers, making them seem transparent. Scientists and engineers from several fields have shown how these frogs achieve their opacity.
Observing a glassfrog in its native habitat might be challenging. The northern glassfrog, Hyalinobatrachium fleischmanni, seldom exceeds a few centimeters in length and is most active at night, when its green skin allows it to blend in with the surrounding leaves and greenery.
However, while these amphibians are sleeping during the day, they become great masters of disguise. These nocturnal frogs spend the day dozing off beneath the cover of tree leaves. Their shadowless, greenish translucence makes them almost inconspicuous to flying birds and other potential predators.
While translucent while sleeping, northern glass frogs take on a dark reddish brown hue when they bounce about in quest of food and a partner. They figured it out by using a combination of optical and ultrasonic imaging equipment to see what was hiding in plain sight: Nearly 90% of a frog’s red blood cells are concentrated, or hidden, in the liver when the frog is sleeping.
Their blood is the only thing that might be used to identify them, given that their skin as well as other tissues are see-through. Most of the frogs’ internal organs likewise shrink and are compressed.
How or why they are able to accomplish this without dying is unknown. Most animals couldn’t survive without oxygen-rich blood formore than a few hours. And such a high concentration of blood would cause lethal clotting. Frogs, however, manage to stay alive. More study of the species might provide insights that help in the creation of blood-thinning drugs.
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