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Small orange pumpkin frogs have bones that glow through their skin



  Small orange pumpkin frogs have bones that glow through their skin

This is a pumpkin toad ( Brachycephalus ephippium ) under natural light (left) and ultraviolet light (right). 19659003] Photo credits: Sandra Goutte / NYU Abu Dhabi

In the Atlantic Forest of eastern Brazil, poisonous "pumpkin toads" use their vivacious colors to fend off predators. However, these tiny frogs also emit a secret visual signal: they shine light blue under ultraviolet light.

Scientists unexpectedly discovered the glow patterns in two species of pumpkin toads ( Brachycephalus ephippium and B. pitanga) ) in studying the mating calls of small frogs. To the human eye, the frogs appear orange, red or yellow in natural light.

However, when researchers beamed a UV lamp at the frogs, blue patterns appeared on the heads, back and legs of the toads. [In Photos: Cute and Colorful Frogs]

Fluorescence is extremely rare in terrestrial animals. While scientists do not know how pumpkin toads use their glow, they can help them identify potential partners or protect them from predators, the researchers said in a new study.

Unlike bioluminescence, where chemical reactions in the body of an animal produce light, fluorescence does not work in complete darkness. In fluorescence, special molecules absorb light and then emit it at longer wavelengths, producing a glow that normally appears in reds or greens.

Corals, scorpions and a rare species of sea turtle fluorescence; In 201

8, scientists discovered that chameleons also fluoresce. Another team of researchers found out in 2017 that two species of South American tree frog had fluorescent skin, according to the authors of the new study. The glow of pumpkin toads, however, resembles that of chameleons derived from the bones of animals.

In fact, bone plates on the toad's head and back were "exceptionally fluorescent," although chemical analysis would be required. The compounds that give the frogs their intense luster were reported by the scientists.

What use does glow have to the toads? There is no indication yet how the frogs use their glow, but it could be an additional warning to predators that indicate the frog's toxic coating. Some birds and spiders can see fluorescent light in natural light, study author Sandra Goutte told Live Science. Goutte is a postdoctoral fellow at New York University Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

Another possibility is that the little frogs use their illusion to communicate with each other. Pumpkin toads have no middle ear and can not hear themselves shouting; Perhaps a shining signal will help them mate success or allow the frogs to recognize their own species.

"But that's only true if the frogs can see it," Goutte said. "And we do not know if they do it."

The results were published online today (March 29) in the journal Scientific Reports.

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