Adaptations of the reed frog Hyperolius viridiflavus (Amphibia: Anura: Hyperoliidae) to its arid environment

VI. The iridophores in the skin as radiation reflectors

Summary

Hyperolius viridiflavus possesses one complete layer of iridophores in the stratum spongiosum of its skin at about 8 days after metamorphosis. The high reflectance of this thin layer is almost certainly the result of multilayer interference reflection. In order to reflect a mean of about 35% of the incident radiation across a spectrum of 300–2900 nm only 30 layers of well-arranged crystals are required, resulting in a layer 10.5 μm thick. These theoretical values are in good agreement with the actual mean diameter of single iridophores (15.0±3.0 μm), the number of stacked platelets (40–100) and the measured reflectance of one complete layer of these cells (32.2±2.3%). Iridescence colours typical of multilayer interference reflectors were seen after severe dehydration. The skin colour turned from white (0–10% weight loss) through a copper-like iridescence (10–25% weight loss) to green iridescence (25–42%). In dry season state, H. viridiflavus needs a much higher reflectance to cope with the problems of high solar radiation load during long periods with severe dehydration stress. Dry-adapted skin contains about 4–6 layers of iridophores. The measured reflectance (up to 60% across the solar spectrum) of this thick layer (over 60 μm) is not in keeping with the results obtained by applying the multilayer interference theory. Light, scattered independently of wavelength from disordered crystals, superimposes on the multilayer-induced spectral reflectance. The initial parallel shift of the multilayer curves with increasing thickness and the almost constant (“white”) reflectance of layers exceeding 60 μm clearly point to a changing physical basis with increasing layer thickness.

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Kobelt, F., Linsenmair, K.E. Adaptations of the reed frog Hyperolius viridiflavus (Amphibia: Anura: Hyperoliidae) to its arid environment. J Comp Physiol B 162, 314–326 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00260758

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Key words

  • Arid environment
  • Aestivation
  • Iridophores
  • Skin reflectance
  • Frog, Hyperolius viridiflavus taeniatus