SciCafe: Decoding the Camouflage of Glassfrogs

Part of SciCafe

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

(Left) Sleeping transparent frog, with light glow at the center. (Right) Active transparent frog, with larger middle glow and bright veins visible. Glassfrog photographed during sleep and while active, using a flash, showing the difference in red blood cell perfusion within the circulatory system. 
© Jesse Delia
It may seem like a superpower, but transparency is actually a complex form of camouflage, involving mechanisms that reduce light scattering and absorption. 

For vertebrates, transparency is particularly difficult because red blood cells in the circulatory system interact with light. It’s especially rare in land animals—making glassfrogs, small nocturnal amphibians named for their see-through bellies—that much more extraordinary. 

In this SciCafe, join Jesse Delia, Gerstner postdoctoral fellow in the Museum’s Department of Herpetology, to find out how glassfrogs overcome this challenge by concealing most of their red blood cells from view—and how this incredible amphibian’s adaptation may have applications in human health and medicine. 

Resources for SciCafe’s Frequent Geeks  

Quick Pick: Glassfrogs camouflage

Big Bite: The astonishing vanishing act of the glassfrog, revealed 

Deep Dive: Glassfrogs conceal blood in their liver to maintain transparency