A Wildlife Article from All-Creatures.org

Biofluorescence In Amphibians

From Linda Paetow, SAVE the FROGS!
February 2024

Learning how widespread biofluorescence was discovered in amphibians, exactly what that means, and how that capability can be useful to them.

glowing Frog
In this image, Cranwell’s Horned Frog (Ceratophrys cranwelli) glows green under excitation light. Photo by Jennifer Y. Lamb and Matthew P. Davis, from Salamanders and other amphibians are aglow with biofluorescence

How biofluorescence was discovered in amphibians

Once upon a time (or more specifically in 2020) there were two researchers based at St. Cloud State University, in Minnesota, who asked themselves whether amphibians might commonly glow under certain types of light. The first was Dr. Jennfier Lamb, a herpetologist who studies the behavior, life history and other biological aspects of amphibians and reptiles. The second was Dr. Matthew P. Davis, who studies deep-sea fishes, and how they’ve evolved traits, such as bioluminescence, to help them live in the dark.

At the time of their discovery, biofluorescence had already been observed in other, generally aquatic animals, but little exploration on the topic had been done on amphibians. So, when they decided to investigate the commonality of biofluorescence in that group, they were aghast to find out how widespread it was! At first, they focused on adult salamanders, but as they excitingly examined other groups and life stages of amphibians, they found that all of them biofluoresced!
To be clear, this doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to witness frogs glowing softly in the moonlight as you walk past their breeding pond late one night, because you need special lighting and equipment to observe the phenomenon. Lucky for frog and amphibian lovers everywhere, Lamb and Davis not only had the right equipment to detect biofluorescence, but they also the idea and know-how to look for it!


Please read the ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE that includes:

  • Biofluorescence is the re-radiation of light at a different wavelength
  • Why biofluorescence might be important to amphibians

glowing amphibians
Varying patterns of biofluorescence observed across salamanders. Image by Jennifer Y. Lamb and Matthew P. Davis, in Salamanders and other amphibians are aglow with biofluorescence.

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