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Frog's Tongue Mystery Explained, Super-Adhesive Power Cracked By Scientists

By Christie Abagon , Feb 03, 2017 12:17 PM EST
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Have you ever wondered why frogs can catch insects faster than a blink? These amphibians have one of nature's most amazing methods of catching their prey. Science has an answer to this powerful ability and it's in their spit.

According to Science News, frogs use their whip-like tongue to snag its prey quickly, hitting insects with a force of about five times greater than gravity. But the real question is, how do frogs hang onto its meal as the food rockets back into its mouth?

A Frog's Tongue Is Very Soft And Is Able To Stretch And Store Energy

A study led by Alexis Noel of the Georgia Institute of Technology found that the tongue's unique stickiness results from a combination of a soft, viscoelastic tongue coupled with a reversible saliva. The frog's tongue is as soft as brain tissue and 10 times softer than the human tongue, and is able to stretch and store energy much like a spring.

"The tongue acts like a bungee cord once it latches onto its prey," Noel said. "It deforms itself as it pulls back toward the mouth, continually storing the intense applied forces in its stretchy tissue and dissipating them in its internal damping."

Tissue Damping Is Very Much Like A Car's Shock Absorbers

Science Daily said that the tissue damping is much like a car's shock absorbers. Also, the softness of the tongue allows it to change shape during contact and immediately afterwards while retracting.

There are three phases, Noel said. When the frog's tongue first hits the insect, the saliva is almost like water and fills the insect's crevices. Afterwards, the tongue snaps back, the saliva changes and becomes more viscous - gripping the insect for the ride back. Then, the saliva turns watery again when the insect is sheared off inside the mouth.

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