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Transparent Animals

Updated on November 14, 2016


Many species of animal are naturally transparent. However this hub is part of my collection of pages on unusual morphs of mutant forms of animals--animals that are different from what is usual for this species. Thus. this list will focusses mainly on animals who are members of species and sub-species that are not usually transparent..

A requirement to produce a transparent mutant is that the animal have no innately opaque structural elements between their skin and their internal organs. For this reason most examples come from the realms of fish and amphibians as these species lack opaque fat or protein fibres between their skin and organs. Mammalian examples are less extreme or possible only after post-mortem processing.

In Nature

Transparent "morphs" arise spontaneously, typically from a mutation or inbreeding producing a number of animals that do not produce normal pigments. In some cases these animals gain an advantage from their state, such as transparent daphnia which are harder for predators to see. These morphs may also be selective bred for human purposes.

Transparent Fish

In 2008 a transparent zebra fish was developed (shown right). Colloquially referred to as 'caspers' these fish are used to study the development of cancer within the body. Even normal zebra fish larva are extremely transparent and are used in research into the formation of blood cells and the development of obesity. The transparent line retains this qualities into adulthood. A transparent guppy has been developed for similar applications.

There is also a transparent breed of goldfish, developed as a method of showing internal organs to students without the need for dissection. The line of ryukin was developed by selecting and breeding together fish with little or no pigment that occurred spontaneously in a large breeding population. There is not only an ethical advantage to using the fish (not needing to kill animals to see their organs), but the organs can be seen in their operation state and it is also considerably cheaper as each animal can be observed/reused many times.

See also:


Researchers at Hiroshima University developed a transparent frog (shown right), also for the purposes of anatomical instruction. The frog is see-through throughout its life from tadpole to frog, allowing literal insight into the developmental stages of an amphibian. The see through frog was selectively bred from specimens of Rana japonica.

A natural occurring transparent frog (the Glass Frog) was also recently discovered in Ecuador.


Many insects are partially transperant.  One dramatic example is the glasswing butterfly (right).

Artificially Created

Deceased specimens can be prepared to selectively reveal body structures. Japanese researchers created a process that makes the skin of a mouse completely translucent. And New World Transparent Specimen is one company that dissolves the proteins in animal specimens and reveals bones and other structures that are highlighted with dyes. Another reagent that has a similar effect is called Sca/e.


Transparency can also be used to get a good look at animals that are usual hidden from sight. Such as this hermit crab in a glass shell.

Also film or photgraphy taken under infrared can produce an illusion of skin transparency by increasing the visibility of structures such as veins under the skin.

The Transparent Man

While a mammal will never be truly transparent some conditions do greatly increase the translucency of the body and allow some ability to view internal organs. One such example is Count Orloff who was subject to a debilitating wasting disease and resorted to making an income as a side show exhibit. Due to the extreme wasting of his muscles and bones, a bright light could pass Orloff's body, illuminating the blood flowing through his veins.


  • Gliwicz, Z. Maciej, Wayne A. Wursbaugh, and Ewa Szymanska. "Absence of predation eliminates coexistence: experience from the fish–zooplankton interface." Hydrobiologia 653, no. 1 (2010): 103-117.


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    • fucsia profile image

      fucsia 7 years ago

      The frog is really interesting and beauty!

      The count instead ..... I had never heard of him ....

      Thanks for sharing