World's first luminous frog discovered in Argentina

South American polka dot tree frog

The world’s first fluorescent frog has been discovered in Argentina.

Scientists say the South American polka dot tree frog, which measures three centimetres long, is the first legitimate evidence of a glow-in-the-dark amphibian.

Researchers from Bernardino Rivadavia Natural Sciences Museum and the University of Buenos Aires made the discovery while studying the pigment of the frog.

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They found that under ultraviolet light, the tree frog glows a bright luminous green, while in normal light, the tiny amphibian is more muted in colour.

Researchers traced the fluorescence to a compound found in the lymph and skin glands and the findings, reported in Nature, reveal its molecules contain “a ring structure and a chain of hydrocarbons, and are unique among known fluorescent molecules in animals”.

Fluorescence, which is the ability to absorb light at short wavelengths and re-emit it at longer wavelengths, is not that common in living creatures on land.

South American polka dot tree frog.
(Julian Faivovich/Carlos Taboada/University of Buenos Aires)

Scientists now want to study the frog’s visual system or photoreceptors to determine whether they can see their own fluorescence.

The discovery opens up the possibility there are other amphibians that may be able to glow under ultraviolet light.

The research, reported in Nature, is published in Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.

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