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Escaping Eggs

July 10, 2006

In nature, eggs are sitting ducks. But some types of eggs may not be as helpless as they seem.


The incredible escapable egg. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

It’s hard to imagine your breakfast egg running away from a predator, but the eggs of the red-eyed treefrog can do just that. Biologist Karen Warkentin of Boston University has found that these eggs hatch prematurely when in imminent danger from a snake.

KAREN WARKENTIN (Boston University):
Snake starts biting and within seconds to a couple of minutes, the tadpoles will bail out.

But premature tadpoles don’t face good odds, so they need to be able to tell a real snake from a false alarm.

It’s a question of, you know, death in one place versus death in another place.

Their secret? Warkentin’s experiments show that the eggs use vibrations to distinguish between snakes, wasps, rain, and wind—and are accurate even when the vibrations are similar. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.