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Chester Zoo Share Rare Images of Glowing Animals

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: September 16, 2021 1:59 am

Chester Zoo Share Glow in the Dark Animals

A panther chameleon exhibits biofluorescence when exposed to ultraviolet light at Chester Zoo

Photo Credit: Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo have shared never before seen photos of a range of their reptile, amphibian and invertebrate species 'glowing in the dark.'

The rare photos show the zoos animal's at night when exposed to ultraviolet light. They displayed a range of red, blue and green shades in a spectacle known as biofluorescence.

This phenomenon occurs when higher energy wavelengths of light, like ultraviolet are absorbed and are then sent out at a lower energy wavelength which makes it appear to be glowing.

Chester Zoo Share Glow in the Dark Animals

A golden coin turtle exhibits biofluorescence when exposed to ultraviolet light at Chester Zoo

Photo Credit: Chester Zoo

Dr Gerardo Garcia, Curator Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates at the zoo provided several theories on why the various animals would exhibit this trait.

“I have worked closely with many these species for more than 30 years, but never before have I seen them in this way,” said Garcia. “Seeing these different animals glow in a spectacular range of colours really is incredible, but the question remains – why do they glow?


“Communication is everything in the animal world, and how a species presents itself visually is a big part of how they speak to friends and foes. There are hundreds of frequencies of light and how animals see light, and therefore colours, is different to humans. We actually only see a small portion of the sunlight, so although we may see an animal glowing brilliantly, their own kind, and even other species, may see this completely differently as they read a wavelength that our eyes can’t perceive.”

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Another reason some species have developed the trait is to help catch the eye of a potential mate by highlighting their most impressive assets.

“The photos show that only some parts of the animals, such as a claw or an eye, glow – and there may be a good reason for this,” continued Garcia. “For the chameleon, for example, fluorescent patterns potentially give them a secondary signalling system that is different to their well-known colour change communication. Males tend to have more tubercles (scales) on their heads than females, which makes them very attractive to the opposite sex. So, with parts of their head glowing, this emphasises their striking head size to females, drawing them in for a closer look.


“Another theory for an animal’s ability to glow is to mark its territory to others. This is mainly to communicate their social status and ownership, which can help attract a partner and warn off competitors.”

Chester Zoo Share Glow in the Dark Animals

A foot-flagging frog exhibits biofluorescence when exposed to ultraviolet light at Chester Zoo

Photo Credit: Chester Zoo

And finally they may use the color to hide from predators as Dr. Garcia explained.

“Some fish may use their ability to change colour to hide from predators. So, instead of them standing out to potential mates, they could glow to help camouflage. Some even go as far as posing as a particular species’ mate when, in fact, they’re its predator.

The final suggestion is that it may serve no purpose at all.


“A fourth explanation could be that it’s just not functional at all and is simply a reaction when exposed to UV light. Fluorescence in terrestrial (land-dwelling) vertebrates has been underestimated until now, and its evolutionary role requires more research. Our understanding of the role of fluorescence in animal vision is in its early stages, but it does open an exciting door to understand the complex world of animal and plant communication.


“Whatever the reason for these magnificent sights, they’re fantastic to document and share with others. We hope these stunning images will further engage people on the importance to protect the unique environment we share with fascinating species of plants and animals,” finished Dr Garcia.

Chester Zoo Share Glow in the Dark Animals

A banggai cardinal fish exhibits biofluorescence when exposed to ultraviolet light at Chester Zoo

Photo Credit: Chester Zoo

Learn more about Panther Chameleons here – Panther Chameleon Fact File | The Animal Facts

Learn more about Chester Zoo on their website – Chester Zoo

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