Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. He is the author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), Dragons: A Natural History (1995), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (1997), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Hidden Powers of Animals (2001), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), The Menagerie of Marvels (2014), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is widely considered to be his cryptozoological magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016) - plus, very excitingly, his first two long-awaited, much-requested ShukerNature blog books (2019, 2020).

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Sunday 15 June 2014


Artistic representation of the unidentified flashlight frog (© Connor Lachmanec, aka TheMorlock on Deviantart.com)

Bioluminescence is the emission of light by certain life forms. These include many known species of bacteria, fungi, protozoans, invertebrates, and fishes, but there are also several controversial examples, including the following couple – both of which may constitute remarkable new species still undescribed by science.


One evening in June 1986, while working on the small eastern Indonesian island of Seram (Ceram) for the VSO, tropical agriculturalist Tyson Hughes spied some very eyecatching, unidentified fishes in a river.

Some typical, non-bioluminescent mudskippers (© Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/Wikipedia)

They resembled the familiar 'fish-out-of-water' mudskippers in general size and shape. However, quite apart from inhabiting freshwater rather than intertidal habitats, these curious fishes encountered by Tyson further differed from all known species of mudskipper by emitting a bright, pulsating red light.

Artistic representation of Seram's mudskipper-like glowing mystery fish (© Ursulav/New Cryptozoology Wikia)

Tyson earnestly attempted to catch one of them, but failed to do so.


In one of his famous nonsense poems, Edward Lear wrote about the dong with the luminous nose, whereas the following cryptid was apparently a frog with a similar attribute, yet was anything but nonsensical.

Swedish artist Richard Svensson's wonderful interpretation of Edward Lear's dong with the luminous nose (© Richard Svensson)

While visiting an animal fair at Newton Abbot in Devon, England, in June 1997, Devon-based CFZ founder Jonathan Downes noticed a cage containing some tree frogs, reputedly from northern Cameroon in western Africa and priced at £25 per frog. Jon was intrigued by these creatures, which each bore a blue spot on its snout, because he could not identify their species. He was even more intrigued when informed by their vendor that the blue spot on their snout glowed in the dark like a flashlight, possibly to attract insects as prey.

A typical green tree frog, conspicuously lacking the flashlight frog's unique glowing snout spot (public domain – for my source of it, click here)

Nevertheless, Jon felt that £25 was too expensive a sum, so he resisted the temptation to buy one - a decision that he would soon bitterly regret. For when he later described these curious flashlight frogs to various herpetological colleagues, he was shocked to discover that there is no species of frog known to science that can glow. Consequently, he had missed the opportunity to purchase a specimen of what might not only be a completely unknown species, but also exhibit a talent unique even among the world's considerably varied array of frogs.

This ShukerNature blog post is excerpted in slightly expanded form from my book Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999) – the first publication ever to document either of these mystery beasts (contrary to various erroneous online claims, the flashlight frog did not appear in one of my earlier books, From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (1997)). Today, 15 years later, both of them are still unidentified and unexamined by science - so if anyone reading this blog post (especially anyone with knowledge of or firsthand experience in the exotic pet trade) has any additional information concerning these or any other mysterious glowing creatures, I'd welcome any details that you'd like to post here.


  1. I live and work in northern Liberia, West Africa. I found your information about a bioluminescent frog to be very interesting. It is a common belief here that there exists a species of frog that produces a rainbow from its mouth. I've talked to at least one person who claims to have seen this frog. Interestingly in the local Manya language, the word for "rainbow" is is literally "frog bridge", based on the belief that rainbows emanate from the open mouths of these frogs. I wonder if this legend could have a basis in reality with some kind of undescribed bio-luminescent frog?

  2. I used to work for a pet shop and we ad species of fish that were dyed with artificial colors. A horrid practice in my opinion but I thought it was plausible that an unscrupulous pet dealer might inject some glowing dye into a small area like the snout.

    I've also occasionally seen fish that glowed (this was before GMOs became common) and I used to wonder if they had developed colonies of bio-luminescent bacteria that were sometimes in the marine tanks. These were not consistent glowers which made me wonder if it was not a normal situation.

  3. In My grandpa's village a very long time ago used to exist a species of Frog or a bird ( sya a missing link). This Pecular Bird used to lay egg in water, then there were tadpoles, a frog , frog that crawled out of water and later grew wings and transformed into bird. Well was this possible.
    The village now is accessible by road and vehicle , recently introduced road (about 5-8 yrs ago) and electricty was introduced about 10-12 years earlier.

    Also on another village about 50km away is an old cave, where every thing is made out of stone, including the bed, cups, plates,etc.

    Lastly there is another village where during winter The Big Foot is reported every year. The people here calls it 'shokpa ' and there are many eyewitness to its existence. Usually during winter huge pigs weighting 100+ pounds gets stolen overnight few owners claims to have seen a 'shokpa' or Big foot Carring it over their shoulder and running away with it. there are foot marks near the Pig Stye to further prove it.

  4. I once read a page postulating barn owls with bioluminescent bacteria in their chest feathers as the source of will-o-the-wisp myths, particularly in cases where the light was reported to move in a pattern similar to a hunting owl. To a layman like me, it seemed to make a good case for it.