(Image courtesy: Sci-News)
Fluorescence is the simple mechanics where energy from a short wavelength light source is taken in by a body and discharged as a ‘photon’ or as ‘a long wavelength’. Sounds simple, and we have all seen it in watches, shoes, temporary tattoos and what nots. In fact, it is one of those simpler things that still fascinate a lot of us.
But, what if I were to tell you that there are organisms and creatures out there glowing all bright… fun, right! While there are a lot of minerals out there that are fluorescent in nature, like adamite and calcite, it is not an unknown fact that a lot of fluorescent creatures roam the earth. Certain fish such as the lizardfish, scorpionfish and sharks are fluorescent in nature. Swallowtail, a kind of butterfly also has a structure for emitting fluorescent light. Apart from these, there are parrots, spiders and even planktons that emit light. Now, these are all slightly known facts. What really did stand out was a discovery made in the year 2017.
In March 2017, a study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which stated that scientists from Bernardino Rivadavia Natural Sciences Museum discovered the world’s first fluorescent frog. The discovery was made in Santa Fe, Argentina when the scientists were studying the South American polka dot tree frog (Hypsiboas punctatus) and its pigment. The frog, in light, has a blotchy green-yellow skin, with red polka dots, but under UV lights it presents as bright green and blue glow. It has gone down in history as the first scientifically recorded fluorescent frog.
Image courtesy: Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales “Bernardino Rivadavia”
How Does It Glow?
The lymph and the glandular emission in the frog is what causes this glowing. This very glandular emission is said to have enhanced the glowing of the frog by almost 19-29%. This is a unique kind of presence in any animal, as most animals with fluorescence have fluorophores, that makes them glow. Most of these fluorophores are proteins and polyenic chains, unlike the fluorescent molecules of the frog. Maria Lagorio, a researcher, said that the trait was widespread among aquatic animals, but not amphibians, making it a special case. So, when UV light is flashed over the frog, its spots turn blue.
(Image courtesy: Pavel Kirillov)
Previously, the established facts about fluorescence in animals was limited to the presence of proteins and the slight pigmentation. Herpetologist Carlos Taboada from the University of Buenos Aires stated that this might create new understandings regarding animal communication. The primary use of fluorescence is still not known, but communication is believed to be one.
Did You Know?
Fascinatingly, this discovery was made in a lab and not in the frog’s natural habitat. When the discovery was made, the scientists dwelled upon the idea that the fluorescence came from the frog’s captivity in the lab. To clarify this doubt, the researchers did similar tests on 200 odd polka dot tree frogs in their natural habitat.
This phenomenon has certainly interested a lot of scientists, with many researchers studying the fluorescence. With the polka dot tree frogs becoming first of the five thousand frog species to be termed fluorescent, there might be many more species out there waiting to be discovered with a flashlight. And then we have humans, trying on a medley of food items and chemical cocktails, to achieve any kind of glow!