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See chameleons shining magnificently under ultraviolet light

Some chameleons could fit in the luminescent world of "Avatar".

Lizards may be known for changing their colors, but they have also been hiding a different kind of colorful surprise: the ability to shine under ultraviolet light. The results are visually impressive.

"We could hardly believe in our eyes when we illuminated the chameleons in our collection with a UV lamp, and almost all species showed previously invisible blue patterns on the head, some even on the whole body," David Prötzel, PhD student in the Collection of Zoology of the State of Bavaria, said in a statement.

Prötzel and his team discovered that the blue patterns matched the shape of the bony protrusions beneath the skin of the chameleons. A closer look revealed that the skin of the lizards was extremely thin and transparent at those points. A statement from the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München describes these areas as "windows that allow UV light to reach the bone, where it is absorbed and then emitted again as blue fluorescent light".

Prötzel posted a video showing a panther chameleon sporting a beautiful pattern of dots on his head. The video also highlights a Brookesia chameleon with a disposition of luminous points and stripes that run through its body.

Fluorescence is more common in marine creatures than terrestrial creatures, so chameleons really stand out.

"It has been known for some time that bones emit fluorescence under ultraviolet light, but that animals use this phenomenon to fluoresce themselves has surprised us and was previously unknown," said herpetologist Frank Glaw of the Zoology Collection of the State of Bavaria.

The researchers published their findings this week in the journal Scientific Reports.

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