It's a widely known fact that we love an array of animals here at Stardock, and frogs are certainly among them. Our CEO Brad in particular is especially fond of the amphibians, even going so far as to sport the name Frogboy on our forums and in other places.
So, when I saw this video of a tiny, barely dime-sized frog called the Pumpkin Toadlet, trying to land a jump and failing spectacularly, I felt compelled to share it so that everyone might also have the same opportunity for a belly-laugh that I had.
If you haven't watched the above 50-second video, I highly encourage you to do so, and with the sound on if able. I still can't stop giggling.
Now, there's a scientific reason why these little frogs struggle so much to jump as gracefully as many other frogs and toads do. The Pumpkin Toadlet's miniature ear structure is the bane of its jumping existence, in fact, since the way its structured is what inhibits their ability to jump effectively.
These frogs are of the genus Brachycephalus, which is a group of small amphibians in Brazil. The Pumpkin Toadlet is fairly adept at jumping upward, that's not the problem - it's the landing part that eludes them. A team of researchers recently looked into why these frogs struggle with gymnastics class, and the results are fascinating. You can read their findings published in Science Advances.
Because of their vestibular system - which are the structures within the ear that govern balance in vertebrates - the Pumpkin Toadlet becomes disoriented in midair, which causes them to awkwardly crash land with every single hop. Their constrained vestibular systems render them unable to keep their noses down during flight, and instead pitches them upward until they hit the ground with their outstretched hindlegs coming down first.
In more than one-third of jumping trials, the frogs landed on their backs (in spite of their outstretched legs). When animals move, a fluid in the inner ear (called endolymph) sloshes around with angular acceleration, which tickles receptors that allow creatures to stay balanced and oriented. Because the toadlets' ear canals are so small, friction between the endolymph and the walls of the ear reduces their sensitivity to angular acceleration.
It's kind of like jumping off a diving board and not being able to sense which way you're going, or how fast you're falling.
The research is truly fascinating, and as I said above, the image of these bitty frogs flinging themselves into the air and thrusting their little legs out made my day. It more than certainly makes me feel better about my own clumsy tendencies, that's for sure!
What do you think of these frogs' crash landings? Hope you're all having a great week!