A recent study conducted on tree and torrent frogs shows and explains torrent frogs’ stunning ability to adhere to wet surfaces. The species has evolved and adapted so well to the surrounding water-flowing environment they seem to almost defeat gravity.
About Torrent Frogs
Torrent frogs are indeed a beautiful, peculiar species. Native of Trinidad, these spectacular animals prefer living in small rapid-flowing hill or mountain water streams. These frogs are usually fairly small, greyish-brown and marked with black little spots. This colour provides the perfect camouflage for the surrounding environment, among wet rocks covered with algae.
Torrent frogs’ feet developed in such a way to make them agile climbers and extremely sticky on slippery, wet rocks and surfaces. Although, as mentioned above, they are native of South-American island Trinidad, the species can also be found in Asia, Africa as well as Australia.
Torrent Frogs Vs. Tree Frogs
As indicated earlier, scientists have recently arrived to important conclusions regarding the stickiness ability of torrent frogs. The study was in the past few days reported by Plosone blog.
Torrent frogs have developed the ability to grip to wet, rough surfaces so perfectly that it seems they are almost able to defeat gravity, as you may observe from the second video further down.
In an attempt to better understand how torrent frogs can maintain this strong adhesion to wet surfaces, scientists ran several experiments on both tree and torrent frogs – of which you can find a full description on this study published on Plosone.org.
Scientists challenged both species on a number of different coarse surfaces as well as rotating platforms, in both wet and dry conditions. They found out, as you could image, that both frogs performed well on dry, smooth surfaces, but that torrent frogs outperformed tree frogs when it was about time to adhering to irregular, wet surfaces; under both low and high flow water volumes.
As you can see from this first video below, tree frogs spread their legs sideways and are attached to the surface by their pads only.
On other hand though, torrent frogs use their entire belly and thigh to hang on to the surface, while water flows; and also, most importantly, when the water flow increases in volume. You can clearly see this from this second video below.
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How Torrent Frogs Defeat Gravity
Of course scientists wanted to know more about how torrent frogs may be able to perform so well under certain conditions, and they used a scanning electron microscope on the pads of both species to arrive to more precise conclusions.
As a matter of fact, they found out that the structure of cells on torrent frogs’ pads are actually extended, and have straighter channels between them – as you may observe from figure B and C below – whereas patterns on tree frogs’ pads’ cells – on figure A below – are more irregular. The straighter regularity of torrent frogs’ cells’ patterns would help water flowing better, allowing them to be more (a lot more!) adherent to wet surfaces.
The Importance of Frogs in the Ecosystem
This TED-Ed video below is not particularly about torrent frogs, but gives us an idea of how important frogs, of all subspecies, really are in the ecosystem of our planet. I hope you’ll enjoy it.
Image: Scanning electron micrographs of toe pad in frogs.jpg courtesy of results of this study on Plosone.org