Science roundup: Animal edition

Today, we bring you the secrets behind frog tongues, anxious crayfish and the music of spider webs

This feller's tongue is sticky enough to hang from. Photo courtesy of   Geoff Gallice via flickr.

This feller’s tongue is sticky enough to hang from. Photo courtesy of Geoff Gallice via flickr.

Close your eyes and picture a frog, one wallowing in the muck on a pond’s edge and plucking flies from the air with its nimble tongue. OK, now open your eyes and continue reading. At the heart of that image you just summoned lies a deep and enduring mystery that has puzzled scientists and kids alike since time immemorial: Why are frog tongues so darn sticky?

Well, according to an article published June 12 in Scientific Reports, some scientists are on the case: In the study they tempted horned frogs into lobbing their tongues at a small piece of glass and measured how strongly the frog tongues stuck.

And boy did they stick! Their tongues were powerful enough to bear the frog’s weight and then some. The researchers think the tongues function as pressure sensitive adhesives, just like many labels and adhesive tape.

This crayfish has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Image courtesy of  Monica R., via flickr.

“I have suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” says the crayfish. Photo courtesy of Monica R. via Flickr.

Been feeling stressed out at work lately? You’re not alone: a gang of scientists studying crayfish found that the invertebrates appear to become stressed when placed in mazes with what they call “adversive illuminated arms.” (Which does sound stressful, am I right?)

Crayfish stress is associated with an increase in serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved with depression in humans. The injection of serotonin into crayfish that had not been stressed produced anxiety-like behavior, and the use of another drug eliminated the behaviors.

Looks like crayfish might have feelings, too.

Don't mind me, I'm just jamming out to some spider tunes in my house that is also an instrument. Photo courtesy of  Francesco Carrani via flickr.

Don’t mind me, I’m just jamming out to some spider tunes in my house that is also an instrument. Photo courtesy of Francesco Carrani via Flickr.

Some scientists get to have all the fun. A team of scientists investigating the sonic properties of spider silk shot lasers and fired bullets at strands of spider web in order to see how the fibers vibrate when struck.

Their results suggest spiders can tune their webs like a Stradivarius. By plucking the strands of their web, spiders could then use the acoustic properties of their home to locate pray trapped in the web or suss out damaged areas. It’s the Internet of everything.