Scientists unveil secrets of glass frogs that HIDE their red blood cells

When small glass frogs arrive for the night, they can become transparent, hiding nearly 90 percent of their red blood cells.

The brightly colored areas are hidden in the frog’s liver, which can obscure the cells, according to a study Thursday in the journal Science.

During the day, these tiny frogs spend their time hanging under tree leaves. At this point, their green-colored forms cast no shadows, making them largely invisible to potential predators.

When small glass frogs arrive for the night, they can become transparent, hiding nearly 90 percent of their red blood cells. Above: A female glass frog with eggs in her transparent ovaries photographed from below with a flash

However, once they wake up, the frogs look more reddish-brown.

“If they’re transparent, that’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 they are asleep and at their most vulnerable, “they have adapted to remain hidden”.

Scientists used light and ultrasound imaging technology to uncover a new finding: The frogs are able to “concentrate,” or hide, nearly 90 percent of their red blood cells in their livers while they sleep.

The circulating blood would otherwise give them away. Yao also pointed out that the frogs can shrink and compress most of their internal organs.

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

The brightly colored areas are hidden in the frog’s liver, which can obscure the cells, according to a study Thursday in the journal Science. Above: A glass frog sits on a leaf

Scientists used light and ultrasound imaging technology to uncover a new finding: The frogs are able to “concentrate,” or hide, nearly 90 percent of their red blood cells in their livers while they sleep. Above: A male glass frog is photographed from below

How they are able to accomplish this feat is still somewhat of a mystery.

For most animals, having very little oxygen in the bloodstream for several hours would be fatal – and such a high concentration of blood would result in a fatal clot. However, the frogs can survive.

The researchers believe future studies of the species could provide information for the development of anti-clotting drugs.

‘Transparency is extremely rare in nature and in terrestrial animals it is virtually unknown outside of the glass frog,’ said University of Oxford biologist Richard Whitem, who was not involved in the study.

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

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

‘Transparency is extremely rare in nature and in terrestrial animals it is virtually unknown outside of the glass frog,’ said University of Oxford biologist Richard Whitem, who was not involved in the study. Above: A leaf-dwelling glass frog can be seen

Above: A collection of photos from researchers shows the same frog asleep, under anesthesia, and while active (in transmitted light), showing the difference in red blood cells in the circulatory system

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