Scientists reveal the secrets of glass frogs that hide their red blood cells

When young glass frogs swarm at night, they are able to become transparent by masking nearly 90% of their red blood cells.

Colored regions were masked inside the frog’s liver, which can mask cells, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science.

During daylight hours, these tiny frogs spend their time hanging under the leaves of trees. At this point, their greenish hues do not cast shadows, making them invisible to potential predators.

When young glass frogs swarm at night, they are able to become transparent by masking nearly 90% of their red blood cells. Top: Female glass frog with eggs visible in her translucent ovaries, photographed from below with flash

However, once awakened, the frogs appear reddish-brown in color.

“When they’re transparent, it’s for their safety,” said Junjie Yao, a biomedical engineer at Duke University and co-author of the study. When awake, they can actively evade predators, but when asleep and more vulnerable, they “adapt to remain hidden”.

Scientists have used light and ultrasound imaging technology to unlock new insight: Frogs are able to ‘concentrate’, or mask, nearly 90% of their liver’s red blood cells while they sleep.

Otherwise, the circulating blood would abandon them. Yao also noted that frogs can contract and squeeze most of their internal organs together.

Juan Manuel Guayasamín, a frog biologist at the University of San Francisco in Quito, Ecuador, who was not involved in the study, told The Associated Press that the research beautifully explains how glass frogs mask blood in the liver to maintain transparency.

Colored regions were masked inside the frog’s liver, which can mask cells, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science. Above: a glass frog sitting on a leaf

Scientists have used light and ultrasound imaging technology to unlock new insight: Frogs are able to ‘concentrate’, or mask, nearly 90% of their liver’s red blood cells while they sleep. Above: a male glass frog seen from below

How they managed to accomplish this feat remains somewhat of a mystery.

For most animals, having too little oxygen circulating in the blood for several hours would be fatal – and blood too concentrated could lead to fatal clotting. However, the frogs are able to survive.

The researchers believe that future studies on this species could yield information for the development of anticoagulant drugs.

“Transparency is extremely rare in nature, and in wild animals, it’s almost unheard of outside of the glass frog,” said University of Oxford biologist Richard Whittam, who was not involved in the study.

The transparent ones include some fish, shrimp, jellyfish, worms, and insects—none of which carry significant amounts of red blood through their bodies.

“It’s just a really amazing dynamic form of camouflage,” White said.

University of Oxford biologist Richard Whittam, who was not involved in the study, said:

“Transparency is extremely rare in nature, and in wild animals, it’s almost unheard of outside of the glass frog,” said University of Oxford biologist Richard Whittam, who was not involved in the study. Above: a glass frog inhabiting the leaves

Above: A set of images from the researchers showing the same frog while sleeping, under anesthesia and during its activity (in transmitted light), which indicates a difference in red blood cells within the circulatory system

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