Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Planet Earth

It’s Not Easy Being Seen

No need to dissect this see-through frog to learn how it works

By Jocelyn RiceFebruary 5, 2008 6:00 AM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

It’s a high school biology student’s dream come true: all the educational perks of frog dissection without having to lift a scalpel. Japanese researchers have developed a frog (video) with skin so transparent that its internal organs are visible. More than a boon to squeamish students, the see-through frog could aid biologists studying how organs develop and respond to tumors or toxins.

The Hiroshima University team, led by Masayuki Sumida, created the frog by breeding garden-variety Japanese brown frogs that had recessive genes for light-colored skin. About one-sixteenth of the second-generation tadpoles grew up to be transparent. They will be useful in the lab, says Santiago Castroviejo-Fisher, a zoologist at Uppsala University in Sweden, because their organs can be monitored in real time to see how they respond to stimuli. “When you kill the organism, you have a snapshot of that moment in time, but you cannot follow a process,” he explains.

Transparent frogs exist in the wild as well, says Castroviejo-Fisher, who has discovered several new species of so-called glass frogs. About 150 species live in the treetops of Central and South American rain forests, where transparency most likely evolved as a form of camouflage. But this kind of disguise is probably rare because frog innards are susceptible to harm in direct sunlight, he adds. The selectively grown frogs in Japan don’t have to worry about harmful light, though—they won’t get out of the dull glow of a lab’s fluorescent bulbs.

2 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In