Frogs and amphibians have the right to nab a paris with remarkable speed — however the real mystery of their bug-catching prowess is in the saliva.

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Sticky frog saliva is a non-Newtonian fluid. That means it deserve to behave as both a liquid and a solid.

For the record:

11:16 p.m. Nov. 5, 2021An earlier version the this article suggested that person saliva is not a non-Newtonian fluid. Human being spit does have that property.

This unusual combination of tongue and also saliva allows a frog to record insects, mouse or even little birds much faster than you have the right to blink — 5 times faster, in fact. Once captured, the prey is yanked ago toward the frog’s mouth in ~ a force up come 12 times higher than gravity.

So sophisticated is the frog tongue the it’s qualified of grabbing prey up to 1.4 time the predator’s body load — a feat unrivaled by any man-made device.

Inspired by a viral video clip of a frog attacking animated insects top top a smartphone, researchers from Georgia Tech set out come unravel specifically what happens in those 70 milliseconds. Your findings were released this main in the journal of the Royal culture Interface.

Instead of utilizing virtual insects top top a smartphone game, the researcher from David Hu’s biolocomotion laboratory attached actual crickets come strings and also hooks. They also set up a high-speed video camera to document the tongue activity in unmatched detail.

Here’s what castle discovered:

new research from Georgia Tech reveals how frog tongues work.

First, the frog’s super-soft tongue follow me out choose a bungee cord and splats against an insect. The tongue wraps approximately the insect and also covers it with sticky saliva prior to the victim to know what fight it.

This is wherein the weird, non-Newtonian properties of the frog’s spit come in.

A great example of a non-Newtonian fluid is the corn starch and water mixture recognized as oobleck or moon mud, stated study leader Alexis Noel, a doctoral college student in mechanical design at Georgia Tech. If girlfriend jiggle it about in a cup, the flows like a liquid. However if you press down ~ above it, it turns solid.

Frog saliva behaves in the contrary way. As soon as the slobbery tongue smacks its prey, the saliva becomes much more liquid and spreads right into all the cracks and also crevices the its prey.

As the frog retracts that is tongue, the saliva thickens, making the harder for the prey to different from the tongue. (Imagine trying to pull apart fingers stuck along with peanut butter, Noel said.)


A researcher slowly pulls a cricket foot from a saliva-covered frog tongue.
(Georgia institute of Technology)
To figure this out, Noel had to scrape the tongues the 15 donated frozen leopard frog specimens. The fruits of her labor resulted in around one-fifth that a teaspoon of the stuff, i m sorry she ran with a machine that gauges viscosity, a measure up of exactly how well a fluid flows.

The frog tongue’s softness additionally plays an important role in hold on come prey. The researchers found that frog tongues are among the softest organic materials well-known to scientific research — 10 time softer than human being tongues, or around as soft as brain tissue.

This gives the tongue that is stretchy quality, lot like a bungee cord. Together it flies ago toward the mouth, that absorbs and also stores much of the pressure that would otherwise reason the insect to separate from the tongue.

Once tongue and prey are inside the frog’s mouth, the saliva regains that is watery properties. Climate the frog’s eyeballs dip ago into the mouth to scrape the enjoy the meal off the tongue and also down the throat.

“It’s all really strange, if you’ve never watched a frog eat an insect before,” Noel said.

The result could assist in the advance of adhesives qualified of swiftly grabbing fragile items, such together microchips, off conveyor belts there is no damaging them. A sticky frog tongue mechanism could additionally be attached come a drone to catch objects in mid-air, Noel said.

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Members that David Hu’s lab have actually not shied far from unconventional study angles. Hu’s previous work has demonstrated how fire ants kind ant-rafts come sail throughout flood waters, what eyelashes do and also the average time it takes for animals to urinate (it’s 21 seconds). That research earned an Ig Nobel compensation in 2015.




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