A frog species in Brazil is terrible at jumping because its ear canals are too tiny. Researchers at South Illinois University Edwardsville have conducted a study on a wide variety of frogs and toads, finding that members of the genus Brachycephalus have the smallest known semi-circular ear canals among adult vertebrates.
While these miniature frogs certainly look adorable, having a small ear canal means they can’t control their position in flight, leading to some pretty hilarious crash landings. While we know that frogs evolved to leap before they could land, this new study highlights that having a smaller ear canal means the frogs' abilities for balance and spatial orientation are affected.
The study is published in the journal Science Advances.
Being miniature has known consequences on the vestibule systems of these pint-sized amphibians. In the case of these tiny pumpkin toadlets, this means the endolymph (the clear fluid within the ear) does not have enough space to move around. As a result of Poiseuille’s Law, in mid-air this means the tiny frogs are unable to control their body position as they get closer to the ground, often ending up cartwheeling into the leaf litter.
Video Credit: Richard L. Essner, Jr.
This is another blow for frog-based jumping abilities, as research published last year suggested that the consequences of the climate crisis mean dehydrated frogs can’t jump as far.
Unfortunately, being a tiny frog that frequently lands on your face can make you pretty easy prey for any hungry predator looking for a snack-sized meal. The researchers suggest that this might explain why some frogs have evolved predator defense strategies such as camouflage coloration and toxicity to compensate for their poor landing abilities.