An international team led by an Abu Dhabi-based researcher has made a significant discovery while conducting a study on pumpkin toadlets in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest.
The research led by NYU Abu Dhabi postdoctoral associate Sandra Goutte found that these poisonous toadlets – also called Brachycephalus ephippium – use their glowing bodies to communicate with fellow tiny frogs in the wild.
This characteristic sheds light on how these creatures interact during mating season, given that pumpkin toadlets are deaf to their own mating call.
The pumpkin toadlets’ entire skeleton is highly fluorescent and their bones glow through their skin as proven when researchers shone ultraviolet light on the frogs.
“The fluorescent patterns are only visible to the human eye under a UV lamp,” Sandra explained.
“In nature, if they were visible to other animals, they could be used as intra-specific communication signals or as reinforcement of their aposematic colouration, warning potential predators of their toxicity.
“However, more research on the behaviour of these frogs and their predators is needed to pinpoint the potential function of this unique luminescence.”