Disappearing Act

What?! He just… disappeared!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Nocturnal glassfrogs don’t need a magician to make them disappear. They have translucent skin and muscles that help them camouflage as they sleep. We can’t even see their blood! How do they do that, and what can it teach us? 

Carlos Taboada and team from Duke University investigated. 

They used PHOTO-ACOUSTIC microscopy. That means they shined light through the frogs’ OPAQUE organs. Then they measured sound waves produced when molecules absorb light. Using this technique, they observed blood flow and red blood cell concentrations. 


Resting glassfrogs HIDE nearly NINETY-percent of their red blood cells in their liver! Their livers are like mirrors, increasing their overall transparency up to THREE-fold! When they need to be active they bring red blood cells back to their bloodstream.

For us, that many red blood cells together would clot! So, scientists believe continued study of glassfrogs may aid in blood-clot research.

Alright, sun’s down, and he’s back and ready to be seen. What a life!


Taboada, C., Delia, J., Chen, M., Ma, C., Peng, X., Zhu, X., Jiang, L., Vu, T., Zhou, Q., Yao, J., O’Connell, L., & Johnsen, S. (2022). Glassfrogs conceal blood in their liver to maintain transparency. Science, 378(6626), 1315–1320. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abl6620