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Shape-Shifting frogs

April 1, 2015

The skin of a newly discovered frog species transitions from spiny to smooth in a matter of minutes depending on its background.

Transcript

ZOOLOGICAL JOURNAL OF THE LINNEAN SOCIETY

(Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Shape-shifting frogs. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

On the western slope of the Andes mountains, a frog with a remarkable superpower eluded discovery until recently. Case Western Reserve University amphibian ecologists Katherine and Tim Krynak first saw the frog on a mossy leaf.

KATHERINE KRYNAK (Case Western Reserve University):

We called it the punk rocker frog because of all of its little spines all over its skin.
HIRSHON:

It was three years later before they encountered a second one. They transported it in a cup.

KRYNAK:

And we took the frog out of the cup and we saw that its spines were gone, and I honestly thought that I had picked up the wrong frog. But I put some moss in the cup and the frog’s spines came back, and that was just incredibly shocking to see because vertebrates aren’t known to do that.

HIRSHON:

The researchers suspect the frog’s shape-shifting abilities may serve as a form of camouflage. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.