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Colour-changing frogs

When people think of colour-changing animals most people immediately think of chameleons, and although certain chameleons can change colour, they’re not the only animals to do so..

Lemur leaf frog, showing green resting colouration

Lemur leaf frog, showing green resting colouration

For the last few weeks I’ve been investigating the dramatic colour change of some of the lemur leaf frogs at the vivarium at Manchester Museum.

Visitors to the vivarium can see the lemur frogs being housed in the tanks on the left as you look into the back of house conservation area, but here they are normally sleeping on the underside of leaves or occasionally pressed tight against the glass to conserve moisture. Different groups of frogs are carefully kept in separate tanks for each bloodline, in order to preserve genetic diversity for their future conservation.

Lemur leaf frog, showing dark brown colouration associated with nocturnal activity

Lemur leaf frog, showing brown colour associated with nocturnal activity

One of the amazing things about these frogs is that they can change their pale green colour to a dark reddy-brown colour. However, even if you’re lucky enough to be able to see some of these amazing frogs in the vivarium, you won’t see this dark colouration as they only change colour at night. Like many tree frogs, the lemur leaf frog is nocturnal, and so to see this colour change myself I have been photographing the frogs in a specially prepared tank overnight. I’ve made the pictures for one night into a short video so hopefully you can see both how active these frogs can be, and how dramatically they change colour.

Although the video looks bright, the room in which they are housed was actually very dark, and this video has been assembled from individuals pictures taken with a flash, once every ten minutes. At the end of the video, you can see how their body clock knows that it is morning again, and they all retreat back to the leaves and revert to their original pale green colour.


 Chris Blount: New Research Project            Chris Blount: Research update