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Frog eats beetle. Beetle crawls through the guts to escape

The beautiful Being a frog means you don’t have to chew your food – just Sipand down the hatch. The problem with being a frog is that you don’t have to chew your food, which means you snatched the water beetle Regimbartia attenuatayour food could come out at the other end in an undesirable way: alive and literally kicking.

Write in the magazine today Current biologyKobe University ecologist Shinji Sugiura describes how the beetle trapped behind the frog’s jaws turns and crawls through its digestive tract. In carefully elaborated laboratory experiments, Sugiura found that 93 percent of the beetles he fed the frog Pelophylax nigromaculatus escaped the predator̵

7;s “venting” – an anus – within four hours, “which is often involved in fecal pellets,” he writes. The fastest run from mouth to anus took only six minutes. The beetles then went about their day as if they weren’t just going through a digestive system and were actually swimming effectively.

Apparently they understand their unique location R. attenuata Beetles seem to have climbed through the frogs’ guts. Sugiura also demonstrated this by waxing some of the beetle legs with motion – this time none of them emerged alive from the anus, but more than 24 hours later as feces. All of this was a surprise for Sugiura. Given that predator and prey live together in Japan’s rice fields, he hypothesized that the beetle might have developed some form of anti-frog defense. “However, I did not predict that R. attenuata can escape from the frog slot, ”Sugiura wrote in an email to WIRED. “I just provided the frogs with the beetle and expected the frogs to spit them out in response to the behavior of the beetles or something.”

Coincidentally, the adaptations the beetle had already developed for aquatic life prepared him for the great journey through a frog’s digestive system. For one, these insects swim quite effectively by kicking their legs. Maybe they actually swim through the garbage in the frog’s gut. Insects also breathe through holes in their hard shells or exoskeletons. To breathe underwater, this particular species of beetle captures a small air bubble under its wing covers, known as the Elytra. (Think of the dotted flaps that a ladybug opens to take off.)

Video: S. Sugiura / Current Biology

Maybe it will do the same as it finds its way through a frog’s innards. “I would imagine an air bubble to make it easier for the beetle to breathe and possibly provide a small jacket to keep stomach acid at bay while escaping,” said Christopher Grinter, entomology collection manager at the California Academy of Sciences involved in research.

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