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Pictures: Take a Look Through Nature’s Most Transparent Animals

A team of researchers recently announced the discovery of Cyanogaster noctivaga, a brand new species of transparent fish that lives deep in the Amazon. Indeed, with its transparent skin and dazzling blue belly, the discovery constitutes an entirely new genus and, despite being very hard to see, has been given an eye-catching name that means “blue-bellied night wanderer.”

This unique organism got us thinking about what other creatures are transparent or translucent, so we put together this list.

1. Transparent Amazonian Fish

Cyanogaster translucent fish
Cyanogaster, a recently discovered translucent fish. Photograph courtesy Natural History Museum

It’s speculated that the combination of its nearly invisible nature and nocturnal ways may be the reason why Cyanogaster noctivaga wasn’t discovered until now.  The fish is also tiny, measuring an estimated maximum of 0.7 inches (17 millimeters) long and makes its home in the notoriously murky Rio Negro, which may have contributed to its elusiveness.

Being that hard to see confers obvious survival benefits as a form of camouflage, so it’s not surprising that when it comes to transparency it *ahem* clearly isn’t alone.

(See Photos of a Fish With a Transparent Head)

2. Golden Tortoise Beetle

Translucent Golden tortoise beetle
Golden tortoise beetles can shine metallic gold or change color to red. Photograph by George Grall, National Geographic

The golden tortoise beetle (Charidotella sexpunctata) is high in the running for the tiniest and most beguiling of nature’s translucent creatures. At 0.2 to 0.3 inches (5 to 8 millimeters) long it resembles a metallic ladybug and is something of a chameleon, shifting in color from gold to a reddish bronze throughout the year.

Also known as the “goldbug,” the lovely leaf-eater manages this transformation by reflecting light through liquid stored below a transparent outer cuticle.

3. Glass Frogs

Translucent glass frog Hyalinobatrachium pellucidum
The translucent glass frog Hyalinobatrachium pellucidum. Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic

Hyalinobatrachium pellucidum, also known as the “glass frog,” is native to the cloud forests and rivers of Ecuador. Hyalinobatrachium pellucidum’s pale green skin is translucent to the point that the majority of its vital organs are clearly visible. Unfortunately, the species is endangered due to continuing habitat destruction.

4. Sea Angels

A sea butterflyfish swims in waters off Enderbury Island. Photograph by Brian Skerry, National Geographic
A sea butterflyfish swims in waters off Enderbury Island. Photograph by Brian Skerry, National Geographic

Sea angels are mollusks native to the Arctic Ocean whose scientific name Gymnosomata is Greek for “naked body” and whose appearance is both ghostly and beautiful (see video below). Sea angels are hermaphroditic and feed on another, possibly related, species of “winged” mollusk known as the sea butterfly (Thecosomata). Since they appear to flutter through the water on tiny translucent wings it’s easy to see how sea angels got their common name, although they also have pointy protrusions that resemble horns…

5. Barton Springs Salamander

An endangered Barton Springs salamander, Eurycea sosorum.
An endangered Barton Springs salamander, Eurycea sosorum. Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic

The Barton Springs salamander (Eurycea sosorum) is a small lungless salamander unique to Barton Springs, a group of natural springs in Austin, Texas. Its speckled, reddish-brown skin is translucent and eggs or even the contents of the salamander’s last meal are often visible.

Since the Barton Springs salamander is found nowhere else in the world and relies on fresh, unpolluted spring water it’s been listed as an endangered species since 1997.

While for many animals translucency is a way of life, some creatures exhibit it only in certain phases… 

6. Translucent Tadpoles

Tadpoles' coiled intestines are revealed by transparent skin.
Note the tadpoles’ coiled intestines. Photograph by Paul A. Zahl, National Geographic

These Costa Rican tadpoles have see-through skin that reveals neatly coiled intestines.

7. Larval Squid

A transparent larval squid
A transparent larval squid. Photograph by David Liittschwager, National Geographic

This larval squid shows off translucency and iridescence in equal measure.

8. Monarch Butterfly Pupa

Translucent Monarch Butterfly Pupa
A translucent monarch butterfly pupa. Photograph by Paul A. Zahl, National Geographic

This monarch butterfly, seen at a tender age, offers a preview of its famous brilliant orange hue peeking out from the transparent coating of its pupa.

 What are some transparent creatures we’ve left out? Have you seen (through) any other examples?


  1. Erick W. Miller
    Apache Junction, Arizona
    August 12, 11:33 pm

    I saw a transparent salamander in Dover, Tennessee. It was the size of a Newt and light green. It was on Everett Watson Hill south of Dover.

  2. Seb
    January 23, 4:53 am

    Nice work by the Nat Geo team. You can also add the skeleton shrimp

  3. Clara
    May 10, 2015, 2:47 pm

    You forgot the the translucent butterfly (greta oto) love the animals! 🙂

  4. Jasmin
    November 5, 2014, 11:25 pm

    Great list!! Except for the misinformation on the Barton springs salamander. They’re found in Slovenia caves as well, they call them human fish.

  5. jugoslav
    July 19, 2013, 10:33 am

    so many kinds of jellyfish and you named none! but it is important to put on the list tadpoles…where is your brain, translucent maybe?

  6. Elliw
    June 3, 2013, 3:20 pm

    Ferry interesting. I have learnt a lot from this page

  7. Jo
    May 31, 2013, 12:25 pm

    Salps – Thalias in the Tunicate family
    For a few in California, see Class Thaladiacea (Salps) on http://nathistoc.bio.uci.edu/Intertidal.htm#Tunicates

  8. behnam
    May 21, 2013, 11:47 pm

    بسیار زیباست

  9. EGIDIO tejerina
    May 20, 2013, 7:30 pm

    bery good, muy bueno

  10. flor cabral
    May 18, 2013, 2:27 pm

    so amazing what nature has for us.

  11. SERGIO
    May 18, 2013, 12:52 pm

    simple y sencillamente sorprendente la naturaleza sigue siendo maravillosa, caprichosa y en ocasones mortal. gracias por tan excelentes imagenes

  12. Danny
    May 18, 2013, 12:18 pm

    I’ve seen those transparent tadpoles in china like 3-4 years ago. 🙂

  13. knotz roperos
    makati city,philippines
    May 18, 2013, 7:03 am

    Thank GOD for His wonderful creatures:-) 🙂 🙂 it shows the truthfulness of His Words that all things would be revealed even our innermost beings….we will breathe and live even of various mystical forms becaue He is the giver of life…thank God also for the photographers who were used by Him as witnesses of these elluding creatures of transparency and translucency!!!!!:-) 🙂 🙂

  14. eudel thomas
    May 18, 2013, 6:10 am

    thank you for your dedication to bringing the these creature to our attention.

  15. anu
    Sei lanka
    May 18, 2013, 4:27 am

    I like that Sea Angel. How beautiful our earth is…

  16. Drew
    May 18, 2013, 1:41 am

    great species! two thumbs up for the discoverers…
    this only shows that the exploration on the wonders of creatures on earth has not yet come to an extent, there are more discoveries to do…

  17. kara
    montreal, quebec
    May 18, 2013, 1:39 am

    young bedbug hatchlings are transparent!

  18. Holly Rankin
    May 18, 2013, 1:32 am

    I’ve seen transparent slugs!

  19. shaherbano shaikh
    May 18, 2013, 1:32 am

    God has made so many wonderful things that we still learning about them

  20. Jose Hauer
    Curitiba, Brazil
    May 18, 2013, 1:22 am

    Look this transparent butterfly I caught.
    There is a series of photos posted here:

  21. Hitesh
    May 18, 2013, 12:56 am

    Thanks for posting these wonderful creatures.

  22. Donny
    May 11, 2013, 8:01 pm

    Number 6 is a poliwag

  23. Victoria
    May 9, 2013, 7:14 am

    Thank you so much and the photographers. These are wonderful pictures on our glorious inhabitants on earth.

  24. Robert viggers
    Seattle Washington
    May 8, 2013, 7:39 pm

    Nice story. You could add to the list the glass spiders that live in Zimbabwe at the airport in Harare. These spiders are circular and are about 2 to 3 inches across . They appear to be glass as they are about 90percent clear . I don’t really know if they are spiders. Also on the list could be the small jellyfish in puget sound . They are circular and are about 2 to 3 inches across . They are about 95percent clear .

  25. Anthony G. Nderitu
    May 7, 2013, 10:40 am

    Beautiful creatures! Wish all we human beings were as transparent as these creatures in our dealings with one another!

  26. CharlesTheMonkey
    May 7, 2013, 5:17 am

    Nature’s B L I N G !

  27. Brenda Kim
    s. korea
    May 7, 2013, 4:24 am

    Surely appreciate that for showing those beautiful lives everyday!

    Adore the photographers who do take these wonderful things!

    All the creatures are gift, now I know!

  28. Waew
    Lop Buri, Thailand
    May 7, 2013, 1:52 am

    They are beautiful pictures. I feel proud pictures.

  29. Elise
    May 6, 2013, 11:33 pm

    These creatures are so beautiful and amazing. Sadly, its not surprising they’re endangered 🙁 Any tips for us to help these lil creatures? 🙁

  30. Adamu Emmanuel
    May 6, 2013, 3:13 pm

    its wonderful to see all this things being discovered; it makes me feel the yet great amount of unmasked wonders of God in the universe.

  31. J mosh
    palmdale c.a
    May 6, 2013, 12:41 pm

    These are the weirdest cratures ever!

  32. Liz
    May 6, 2013, 11:40 am

    Glass Catfish (Kryptopterus bicirrhis) & Amano Shrimp (Caridina multidentata) are see-through 🙂 .