How Houdini tadpoles escape certain death | Science News

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How Houdini tadpoles escape certain death

Chemicals probably trigger a three-stage emergency early hatching process

By
10:00am, July 28, 2016
snake eating embryos

RUN AWAY When predatory snakes take a bite out of clusters of unhatched red-eyed tree frog embryos, some manage to escape the slaughter by wriggling out of their eggs to safety. 

View the video

Tree frog tadpoles are the ultimate escape artists. To avoid becoming breakfast, the embryos of red-eyed tree frogs (Agalychnis callidryas) prematurely hatch and wriggle away from a snake’s jaws in mere seconds, as seen above. Embryos also use this maneuver to flee from flooding, deadly fungi, egg-eating wasps and other threats. Adding to the drama, red-eyed tree frogs lay their eggs on the undersides of leaves that hang a few inches to several feet above ponds. So the swimmers perform this feat suspended on a leaf, breaking free in midair and cannonballing into the water below.

High-speed video, captured by Kristina Cohen of Boston University and her colleagues, of unhatched eggs collected from Panamanian ponds shows that the embryos’ trick plays out in three stages. First, upon sensing a threat, an

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