These translucent animals don't have much to hide. In fact, they don't even have to hide if they can move about while staying invisible to other species. So what are transparent and translucent animals like? Read on and find out!
If you don't look hard enough, you might not notice the glasswing butterfly flitting by. This butterfly owes it name to the fact that its wings are predominantly transparent.
Butterfly wings are made up of thin layers of the protein chitin, which is the same material that our hair and nails are made of. These layers have a covering of tiny scales that give the butterfly wings their color.
These scales border the wings of glasswing butterflies. The center of the wings, however, is clear membrane. Nanopillars on the membrane give the wings their transparency. The random and irregular arrangement of these nanopillars makes light pass through instead of bouncing it off.
When flounder mature, they turn into a muddy brown color. In its larval stage, however, they have a translucent body that predators will find difficult to see. Upon reaching a certain age, the larvae lose translucency and begin to turn brown. Like other translucent animals, flounder only stay translucent in their youth.
Flounder are flatfish that live on the bottom of oceans and the mouths of big rivers. As larvae, though, they swim upright like other fish. Larval flounder also have eyes on each side of their head. As they mature, one of their eyes begins to transfer to one side, until both eyes are one side of the body. The mature flounder also swims on its side.
Like the flounder, young eels are transparent. When baby eels hatch from their eggs, they look vastly different from the adults of their species. In fact, they look so different that scientists once thought that glass eels were a different species entirely. French zoologist Yves Delage discovered the truth in 1886, when he kept glass eels alive until they matured and revealed their true nature.
Baby glass eels lack the pigments chromatophores and melanophores, which keep these transparent animals safe. Transparency allows baby eels to travel long distances virtually unseen by predators.
Glass squid are indeed a species separate from the squid we more commonly know of. About 60 species of glass squid compose the family Cranchiidae.
These squid live 200 to 1000 meters under the surface of the ocean. Little sunlight penetrates through these depths. Darkness and translucency, however, aren't a good combination when you want other animals to see you. Thus, glass squids have glowing spots on their eyes and arms that help them be visible to prospective mates. Of course, these glowing spots can make glass squid visible to predators as well. Luckily, glass squid have a way to compensate.
There are about 150 species of glass frogs in Central and South America, most of which live on trees. The frogs aren't completely transparent, and they have a green coloration to their skin. However, the frogs' internal organs are visible.
Scientists aren't sure why these frogs are translucent. While transparency and translucency help other species camouflage themselves for protection, this doesn't seem to be a concern for glass frogs. Since the frogs have a green tint and they live on trees, one would expect that they can already blend in well with leaves. With more research, we may find out what these translucent animals are hiding from—if that's how their translucency functions.
Get weekly science updates in your inbox!