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I Can't Believe What I'm Seeing: A Springtime (Froggy) Miracle

Saturday, March 22, 2014 - 05:00 AM

NOVA scienceNOW

Two weeks ago this animal was frozen solid. If you found one in the woods, packed in the topsoil, hiding under a leaf, you could pull it from the ground and it would feel like an ashtray. You could bang it (lightly) on a table — it would go, "Konk!" like a rock. It doesn't seem to be breathing. It reacts to nothing. It's so dead. Or seems to be. And then, this (I want to call it a miracle) happens ...

 

I did this piece when I was host of Nova Science Now, on PBS, and the mystery of it still amazes me.. In particular, I can't stop wondering how the return of warm sunshine in springtime, which acts on the surface of the animal, triggers a sequence deep inside. There must be a cavalry of chemicals — little Paul Reveres that live near the animal's skin — that are roused by the warmth, then race into the body crying, "The sunshine is coming! The sunshine is coming!"

How else to explain the riddle of the wood frog's awakening? If its heart turns on before its brain, the brain would be too cold to get oxygen; the circulatory system would dam up and fail. If the brain turns on before the heart, that brain would be starved for oxygen and die. Yet somehow, all the organs in this little guy's body awaken in perfect synchrony — brain, heart, nervous system (even its inner Romeo) — and stretching its little legs, it announces, like an itty-bitty Schwarzenegger (so the ladies can hear) ..."I'm back!"

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Comments [1]

I found this very interesting. I did not know that there was a type of frog that actually froze during the wintertime. I think it is amazing that it’s internal organs can turn to solid ice and the frog is completely frozen for a long period of time and does not die. Then when spring time comes along it knows that the ice period is over and it thaws out. It definitely shows the power of nature.

Apr. 04 2014 11:26 PM

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