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Frog Feet

August 11, 2011

A new study reveals how tree frogs clean their feet as they hop.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

How frogs get a grip…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

If you re-use a piece of scotch tape, you’ll notice that it quickly gets dirty and loses it stickiness. In contrast, the sticky pads on frog toes never seem to lose their cling. To discover how they do it, biomechanist Niall Crawford of the University of Glasgow put dust on the feet of tree frogs and placed them on an incline. At first, they started to slip, but as they began to move, friction, combined with mucus on their toe pads, helped the amphibians regain their grip.

NIALL CRAWFORD (University of Glasgow):

So, the mechanisms that they use to stick to a surface also clean the pads while they walk. I found that using a shear movement across the surface, so a slight drag towards themselves will help to remove the contaminant.

HIRSHON:

He says the research could lead to more waterproof bandaids.

CRAWFORD:

So, the useful thing about treefrogs is that their adhesion works on wet surfaces. So if you manage to take some of the lessons you can learn from treefrogs, maybe you could have a bandaid that works properly.

HIRSHON:

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.