JAN 15, 2018 06:46 PM PST

Unexpected Fluorescence Found in Chameleons

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
AUG 20, 2018
Plants & Animals
AUG 20, 2018
Worker Ants Intelligently Regulate Tunnel-Digging Efforts to Avoid Jams
At first glance, any burrows look just like tiny dirt mounds on the ground. But just beneath these inconspicuous little mounds are complex mazes comprised ...
SEP 02, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
SEP 02, 2018
Insights From the Opium Poppy Genome
By sequencing the opium poppy's DNA, scientists have revealed important details about how it makes its medicine....
SEP 04, 2018
Plants & Animals
SEP 04, 2018
Can We Streamline the Head-Starting Process for Georgia's Gopher Tortoises?
In the world of animal conservation, head-starting is a technique used by experts to prevent threatened species from inching closer to extinction. This pro...
OCT 03, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
OCT 03, 2018
Groundcherries May be Coming Soon to a Market Near You
You may not have heard of the groundcherry, but scientists are eager to get people to try the newly-modified exotic fruit....
OCT 15, 2018
Plants & Animals
OCT 15, 2018
Plant Growth Stunted by Shorter Winters, Study Finds
As climate change rears its ugly head, Winters are getting shorter and the Spring season is kicking off earlier in the year. Plants are responding to these...
NOV 12, 2018
Plants & Animals
NOV 12, 2018
Researchers Link Sunfish Brain Size to Specific Habitats
To most people, a specific fish species would be the same whether it was found at the shoreline or in the middle of the ocean. But according to research pu...
Loading Comments...