Scientists first discovered the glass frog in 1973 in Costa Rica, yet it was only in recent studies that they began to understand the tiny creature's unique camouflage attribute.
Moreover, this study and other recent biodiversity studies being conducted during the pandemic all point towards a bigger picture: continued growth of biodiversity and making a greener world as coronavirus is leaving positive evidence of healing Earth.
Normally, they are lime-green during the day but can turn translucent - revealing their intestines and heart.
Dr. James Barnett from McMaster University in Canada, a co-author in the study, inquired, 'if predators cannot see straight through the frogs, why do glass frogs have transparent skin at all, and not the opaque camouflaged patterns of other tree frog species?'
Alongside his colleagues, they concluded that the frog adjusts their color according to the leaves they rest on.
'By having translucent legs and resting with the legs surrounding the body, the frog's edge is transformed into a softer, less contrasting gradient from the leaf to the legs, and again from the legs to the body,' reported Barnett. He also noted that the outline makes the frog less recognizable by its predators.
Glass Frogs and Gelatin Frogs
The conclusion came from three experiments recorded by the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Experiment #1 involved photographing 55 frogs on leaves then on a white background, observing the difference in color according to their environment. Although their bodies didn't change much, the significant difference was in the translucency of their legs, which shifted won in brightness and not in hue.
The second experiment involved how different species- snakes, birds, and humans- would react to these frogs.
25 people were presented with 125 computer-generated images of frogs with different translucent gradients and were asked to spot the frog as soon as possible.
Surprisingly, the glass frog was easier seen when it was fully opaque compared to when it had a natural translucent pattern.
Lastly, the scientists made 180 opaque frogs and 180 translucent frogs out of gelatin and released them into a forest in Ecuador. After 72 hours of monitoring, they checked which frogs were attacked by birds.
The result: 53 opaque and 24 translucent gelatin frogs were eaten by birds.
From Camouflage to a Greener Earth
Barnett described the study that it showed how 'being translucent does help glass frogs camouflage themselves from predators, but not necessarily in the way expected by comparison to fully transparent species.
From the University of Melbourne, animal color and behavior expert Professor Devi Stuart-Fox agrees with how fascinating the results are, although she was not involved in the new research.
She provided insight that 'predators form a search image for the shape of their prey, so masking the body's outline is a very effective strategy to enhance camouflage.'
Further discoveries can only be made when natural habitats are a safe place for the earth's diverse flora and fauna.
In Latin America where the glass frog resides, 54% of all deforestation is from this area, with 70% of that activity in just three countries. Logging, urbanization, and agriculture are the main causes of dying natural ecosystems.
With the COVID-19 pandemic causing cleaner air, a healing ozone layer with fewer carbon emissions, and less human activity disturbing wildlife, can humanity capitalize on the idea of making a greener world not just for us, but for creatures such as the glass frog?