JAN 15, 2018 6:46 PM PST

Unexpected Fluorescence Found in Chameleons

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Chameleons are perhaps one of the world’s most widely-recognized lizard species, primarily because of their renowned camouflage capabilities. On the other hand, researchers from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich have stumbled upon yet another chameleon-centric oddity.

Chameleons sport flourescent bony structures on their heads.

Image Credit: David Prötzel (ZSM/LMU)

In a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers detail how the small, bony tubercles on the chameleons’ heads fluoresce under ultraviolet light. Furthermore, these fluorescent displays differed from one species to the next with males sporting more fluorescing patterns than females.

“We could hardly believe our eyes when we illuminated the chameleons in our collection with a UV lamp, and almost all species showed blue, previously invisible patterns on the head, some even over the whole body," explained study lead author David Prötzel.

Related: South Florida's cold spell caused iguanas to fall out of trees

So what was causing these astonishing fluorescent effects? As it would seem, the bone under their skin may have been the culprit. Micro-CT scans and tissue analyses revealed previously-unknown features and provided insight into the extraordinary situation.

Researchers have long known that bone fluoresces under ultraviolet light, but what they didn’t realize was that chameleons sport clear patches in the skin on their heads. These clear points in the skin allow ultraviolet light to penetrate and shine directly on the bony tubercles on the reptiles’ skulls.

No one fully understands why chameleons possess this ability just yet, but the researchers suggest that it might provide a way of distinguishing one species or individual from another.

Considering that researchers don't observe fluorescent capabilities in land animals very often, this is indeed an unusual situation. That said, fluorescence in land creatures could be more common than we think and additional research may yield surprising results.

Source: Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
DEC 22, 2020
Plants & Animals
Australia's Ancient Swamp King
DEC 22, 2020
Australia's Ancient Swamp King
Just a few million years ago, a prehistoric crocodile that was more than 16 feet long was the king of swamps in southwes ...
FEB 09, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Scientists Spotlight Dangers of Ocean Noise Pollution
FEB 09, 2021
Scientists Spotlight Dangers of Ocean Noise Pollution
Many ocean species use sound to communicate and survive. Sound is a crucial communication method since vision is limited ...
MAR 07, 2021
Plants & Animals
What's Terroir and Does Whiskey Have It?
MAR 07, 2021
What's Terroir and Does Whiskey Have It?
Terroir is a term usually associated with wine; it describes the environmental characteristics like climate and soil tha ...
MAR 09, 2021
Microbiology
Dogs' Paws Are Cleaner Than Their Owners' Shoes
MAR 09, 2021
Dogs' Paws Are Cleaner Than Their Owners' Shoes
Assistance dogs are vital to many people who need them to perform daily tasks, but are sometimes denied entry to places ...
MAR 29, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Just discovered, already endangered
MAR 29, 2021
Just discovered, already endangered
Research published recently in Zootaxa details the finding of two species of screech owls that live in the Amazon and At ...
MAY 02, 2021
Plants & Animals
In 10 Years, Brazilian Amazon Emitted More Carbon Than it Absorbed
MAY 02, 2021
In 10 Years, Brazilian Amazon Emitted More Carbon Than it Absorbed
New work in Nature Climate Change has determined that in the last decade, the Brazilian Amazon released over 20% more ca ...
Loading Comments...