• picture
  • picture
PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Note on Emerging Science

Air Date: Week of March 19, 2010

stream/download this segment as an MP3 file

Some animals use sticks, leaves or mud to build durable nests. The Tungara frog uses bubbles. Living on Earth’s Bridget Macdonald reports on how scientists are studying frogs foam in order to make a similar material for medicinal use.

Transcript

YOUNG: Coming up, peace and love, bonobo-style. But first this Note on Emerging Science from Bridget Macdonald.

[SCIENCE NOTE THEME]

MACDONALD: Think “foam” and your mind may wander to the melt-in-your-mouth topping on a cappuccino, but for some frog species, foam is a tough, protective shield for their young. Now researchers are trying to replicate frog foam for medicinal use.

The foam nests made by Túngara frogs in Central America may look delicate, but they’re known for their strength: they withstand high heat, bright sunlight, and bacteria, and stay intact until the tadpoles inside are ready to break free.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow are studying footage of the frogs to figure out how these small amphibians create such durable nests.

They discovered that the male frog collects a special fluid from the female, then kicks his legs up and down in short spurts to turn the liquid into a ball of bubbles. As the foam takes shape, the frog delicately adds the eggs, like a chef folding ingredients into cake batter.

The frog whips up more foam to put the finishing touch on the nest, kicking his legs about 200 times during the entire process.

Scientists are planning to use a similar technique to develop an anti-bacterial foam to treat burn victims. And it’s likely the synthetic version won't require kicking. That’s this week’s Note on Emerging Science. I’m Bridget Macdonald.

[END SCIENCE NOTE THEME]


Watch a male frog building a foam nest.

 

 

Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

P.O. Box 990007
Prudential Station
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Telephone: 1-617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Newsletter
Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Major funding for Living on Earth is provided by the National Science Foundation.

Committed to healthy food, healthy people, a healthy planet, and healthy business.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live.

Kendeda Fund, furthering the values that contribute to a healthy planet.

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary hummingbird photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.