In Blue Light, Most Amphibians Have a Neon-Green Glow

By Theresa Machemer/Smithsonianmag.com

Common newts, frogs, and salamanders may look muddy brown or leafy green, but that’s just what they want you to think. Their camouflage helps them blend into their natural environment to hide from danger. But in the right light, these well-hidden critters start to glow.

Researchers were already aware of fluorescence in a handful of amphibians, the damp-skinned animals that can split their time between land and water. But St. Cloud State University herpetologist Jennifer Lamb and her colleague, ichthyologist Matthew Davis, began to wonder if more common species had been checked carefully for the same characteristics. Their results, published in Scientific Reports on Thursdayshows that 32 diverse amphibian species can all glow.

“We forget to ask the same things about species that are common that we’d ask about rarer species,” Lamb tells Discover magazine’s, Leslie Nemo.

Fluorescent animals don’t glow all on their own, and researchers need special filtered lenses to see them shine. The creatures rely on specific molecules that absorb surrounding light, and then re-emit that energy as a specific color of light, like neon green.

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