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See-through Frog

Researchers develop a frog with transparent skin

By Gail Hennessey | October 15 , 2007
Transparent frog successfully bred by a team of Japanese scientists at Hiroshima University Institute for Amphibian Biology. (Photo: ©Masayuki Sumida, Hiroshima University Institute for Amphibian Biology/AP Images)
Transparent frog successfully bred by a team of Japanese scientists at Hiroshima University Institute for Amphibian Biology. (Photo: ©Masayuki Sumida, Hiroshima University Institute for Amphibian Biology/AP Images)

Did you think there would ever be a way to see the insides of an animal while it is still alive? Scientists in Japan have figured out a way to see the inner workings of a living frog by developing a breed that has see-through skin!

The researchers hope that the transparent frog can help scientists develop more humane research methods, and perhaps do away with dissecting the animals altogether.

How did they do that you ask? Jennifer Pramuk, curator of herpetology at the Wildlife Conservation Society/Bronx Zoo in New York, recently explained the process to Scholastic News Online. "By breeding frogs that naturally lacked color in their skin, the scientists were able to magnify the effects of the mutation that causes the condition," she said. "As a result, the tadpoles that developed had skin that is almost transparent."

Researchers for the Institute for Amphibian Biology at Hiroshima University observed the development of internal organs and blood vessels as the tadpoles grew into adult frogs. The frogs have a bit of yellow coloring, but you can still see their inner workings. Breeding see-through frogs is not a sure thing—currently only one-in-16 has the transparent skin.

Nature Grew Them First

Pramuk says there are some naturally occurring see-through frogs that have developed without the help of scientists. "They’re about two inches long, and have bellies as transparent as glass," she says. "If you turn one over in your hand, you can see their heart beating—and see all of their internal organs!"

Sadly, these rare glass frogs are becoming extinct because their habitats, mainly in Central and South America, are being destroyed. Pramuk also attributes the dwindling numbers to a deadly fungal disease attacking many amphibians in the area, including toads and salamanders.

CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION

What do you think about breeding animals for research purposes?

Join a discussion of this question on our bulletin board.

 

About the Author

Gail Hennessey recently retired from teaching 6th grade social studies in Harpursville, New York. For more information and activity ideas, visit her Web site at http://www.gailhennessey.com/

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