You can see right through this little aquarium fish from Thailand: Its skin is almost completely transparent.
But when the light hits it just right, its body flickers with shimmering rainbow colours.
Now, scientists have figured out how this fish — called the ghost catfish — creates its iridescent glow.
That glow comes from within, according to a study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
As light passes through the fish’s skin, it hits tiny structures in the muscle that turns the light into a colourful spectrum.
The ghost catfish — sometimes known as the glass catfish — is a small species native to rivers in Thailand, averaging just a few inches (centimetres) long.
It’s sold around the world as an aquarium fish.
Other creatures are also iridescent, creating the shimmering rainbow effect where colours shift as you move.
Usually, they have shiny outer surfaces that reflect the light — like a hummingbird’s feathers or a butterfly’s wings, explained Arizona State University biologist Ron Rutowski, who was not involved with the research.
But the ghost catfish has no scales, said senior author Qibin Zhao, a physicist at China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University, who became fascinated by the fish after seeing it in an aquarium store.
By Maddie Burakoff