Marine animal based ‘Bioluminescence’ detected in chameleons
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Marine animal based ‘Bioluminescence’ detected in chameleons

Apart from the usual change in colors of the skin to communicate, chameleons also have the property of displaying fluorescent colors as discovered by scientists in a recent study. It was a common misunderstanding that chameleons change colors to avoid predators and mingle in the background, but this is not the case. It is just an efficient way to communicate with other members of their species.

The element biogenic fluorescence, better known as bioluminescence primarily exists in most of the marine animals, but the same found in terrestrial animals is a rare occurrence. Chameleons come under the category of terrestrial animals which means the evidence of the presence of this feature in this species is quite surprising discovery. The findings of this research were published in a paper open for access by anyone on Monday. The German researchers stated that the bony projections extracted from the skull of a chameleon reflected fluorescent colors when seen under the UV (Ultraviolet) light.

The lead author of the study, David Pretzel, a Ph.D. student from the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology (ZSM) explained that the presence of fluorescent luminosity in the terrestrial beings is a major discovery. The projections extracted from the skull are known as tubercles which emit fluorescence light after absorbing the Ultraviolet light. This is only possible as the skin covering the tubercles are very thin which allow the Ultraviolet light to penetrate through. Post-exposure with UV, the scientists studied the tubercles under a micro-CT scan which were pretty similar to the patterns shown by fluorescence.

The chameleons flaunt a skin constructed of multiple layers. The very first layer out of all is a transparent one. Below this are the cells that help the chameleon change colors. This also points out to the fact that the skin located over the tubercles is essentially a window which isn’t a surprising discovery unlike the presence of fluorescence element.

This particular attribute was majorly discovered in the chameleons present in Africa and Madagascar area which was majorly common among the one living in forests. The humidity present in forest-based habitat is composed of a higher content of ambient Ultraviolet light while the fluorescent element is emitted as blue in color. Amidst all the genus of chameleons present in the forests, the male gender of the Calumma genus shows the presence of a higher amount of florescent tubercles as compared to the male gender.

The fluorescent blue in contrast to the green and brown of the forest makes the chameleons look vivid while standing out from the rest. The discovery of this element opens up new doorways to study the factors associated with sexual selection among the chameleons. The research was published in the journal named Scientific Reports which was titled “Widespread bone-based fluorescence in chameleons”.