Biological researchers from Ecuador and the United States revealed something astounding in 2015. They discovered, for the first time, a vertebrate that has the ability to change the texture of its skin to mimic the texture of the surface it rests on. The species is an amphibian, the mutable rain frog (Pristimantis mutabilis).
Most living things can adapt to environmental changes by altering their phenotype—an organism’s observable properties, including behavioral traits, that are produced by the interaction of the genotype(an organism’s genetic constitution) and the environment. Mammals and many other organisms can modify their bodies temporarily, such as by acclimating to higher or lower temperatures.
What the mutable rain frog does is spectacular. The species is endemic to the cloud forests of the western slopes of the Andes Mountainsin Ecuador, and it was found to undergo a change in skin texture when it was moved to different surfaces.
When researchers lifted several of these frogs from a patch of moss (which was a rough surface that matched the well-developed tubercles on the frogs’ skin) and placed them on a smooth surface, the texture of their skin became substantially smoother in less than six minutes. The researchers speculate that the frog developed this ability to better hide itself from predators. Since its discovery, the same research team found a second frog species (Pristimantis sobetes) with this ability.
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