Special spit helps frogs get a grip on insects
Special spit helps frogs get a grip on insects A frog uses its whip-like tongue to snag its prey faster than a human can blink, hitting it with a force five times greater than gravity. (Wagon16/Flickr)
Special spit helps frogs get a grip on insects
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Let’s just get this out of the way: Frogs are cool. They jump, they thrive in water and on land. And their tongues are capable of sticking to bugs like glue—even ones heavier than they are. And now, at last, the mysteries behind those incredible tongues are being revealed. As Ben Guarino reports for The Washington Post, the secret sauce that makes frog tongues so deadly to insects turns out to be a simple one: spit.

A new study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface reveals that frog saliva is more fascinating than previously thought. Tests showed that it’s both uniquely sticky and physically astonishing—it can actually change physical properties.

For the study, researchers examined frog saliva in combination with the frog’s soft and elastic tongue. Fluid tests of the spit showed that it’s a non-Newtonian fluid—that is, that it has properties different from normal liquids.

Your average Newtonian fluid (as described by Sir Isaac Newton) has the same properties as other such fluids. They freeze at the same temperatures, move into containers in the same ways and flow with the same characteristics. 

But then there are the non-Newtonian fluids—liquids that seem to have a mind of their own. Among their ranks are ketchup, melted chocolate and lava. And apparently frog saliva. These fluids take on different properties at different times, and they don’t behave the same way. (Just think of how the face of a cliff can turn to water during the sudden movement of an earthquake.)

When they studied the non-Newtonian frog spit, researchers learned that it's reversible. That's right: It can change from a glue-like substance into a very thin fluid and back again. 

But the tongue's important, too. So the researchers then studied frozen frog tongues and found that they are ten times softer than the human tongue. They learned that, when combined with the non-Newtonian spit, the uniquely soft tongues have two functions.

The thin spit (which is still 50,000 times more viscous than human saliva), helps the tongue hit and release from bugs. When it hits a bug, the tongue deforms and its contact area becomes bigger. The force of this impact against the bug turns the spit into a thin liquid, allowing it to ooze around its prey. But as the tongue retracts, the saliva thickens, sticking to the bug and making it easier to get the critter into its mouth.

What’s the point of studying frog spit, pressing on frog tongues and videotaping eating frogs? Researchers tell Guarino that the research could one day inspire new, resealable adhesives. The future could very well contain Post-its or envelopes with frog spit-inspired glues—or devices that capitalize on the frogs’ unique ability to grab bugs. Until then, though, the amazement of the little amphibians make it well worth trying to figure out what makes their tongues tick.

Source URL: https://www.tweentribune.com/article/tween78/special-spit-helps-frogs-get-grip-insects/

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why do you think it may be helpful to study things like a frog's tongue?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (36)
  • NashaiJ-bad1
    10/10/2019 - 11:06 a.m.

    I think it is helpful to study a frogs tongue because frog's tongues are attached to the front of their mouths rather than at the back like humans. So scientist probably think that is cool and it probably help them do amazing things with it so we might wanna know how and why by studying them.

  • AB-bad
    10/10/2019 - 11:07 a.m.

    It is helpful studying things like frog tongue because you’ll never know when you have to test it out in high school in science class.

  • JaD-bad
    10/10/2019 - 11:07 a.m.

    Yes it will be helpful to study thing like frog tongue so we can know if the frog tongue is poising or not . How do frog eat or survive and also we can know why type of frog have what type of tongue they have.

  • SaMeM-bad
    10/10/2019 - 11:07 a.m.

    Because you can tell what they eat and others stuff and if you study them you know about them and tell them apart and about.????

  • NevaehH-bad
    10/10/2019 - 11:07 a.m.

    It might be helpful because one day in a class they may ask you a question about frogs and if you know your teacher will be very impressed.

  • NyoN-bad
    10/10/2019 - 11:08 a.m.

    I think it’s helpful because it’s long and its uses forces to catches bugs and flies.

  • MiracleW-bad3
    10/10/2019 - 11:08 a.m.

    To see what makes bugs get stuck to a frogs tongue so fast or the stuff that’s made for a frogs saliva can probably help us with many things in the future or even now

  • YeeK-bad
    10/10/2019 - 11:09 a.m.

    It would be helpful to study things like frog tongue because frog tongues are long.

  • OhMae-bad
    10/10/2019 - 11:09 a.m.

    Why do I think that studying frog tongue maybe helpful is that in the future it mat be helpful in many way such as make or improve other things.

  • JaVyonW-bad
    10/10/2019 - 11:10 a.m.

    Studying a frogs tongue could help in many ways because it is a soft and sticky liquid

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