Why Are Tiny Pumpkin Toadlet Frogs Very Clumsy Jumpers?

Pumpkin toadlets are native to portions of Brazil; they are small, coin-sized frogs with notoriously bad landing skills after jumping.

Tiny Brazilian frogs are poor jumpers because their ear canals are too small

Slow-motion video shows them making no attempt to orient themselves after jumping into the air, instead of crash landing helter-skelter onto whatever surface they come across. The researchers examined the semicircular inner ear canals of 147 different types of toads and frogs. They suspected that their problems were related to the inner ear.

Animals’ inner ear canals are semicircular in shape and filled with liquid. The liquid is jostled when the animal moves, triggering nerve cells that line the canal. This creates a sense of equilibrium.

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According to a high-speed video study of jumping pumpkin toadlets, the change in rotation speed was lowest in the “flying” stage of the jump. Because of their sensitive ear canals, the toadlets may struggle to track and control how their bodies move throughout this phase and may end up in the wrong orientation when they arrive at the landing.

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The toadlets’ improved predator defenses may compensate for their clumsy vaulting. The amphibians are frequently poisonous, disguised, or strengthened with thickened bone in the skull and back. Other frogs have evolved bodies as small as toadlets, but it is uncertain whether they have similarly poor aerial balance.


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