Research

To Beat Surface Tension, Tadpoles Make Bubbles

Young tadpoles use bubble-sucking to breathe.

For tiny creatures, surface tension is a formidable barrier. Newborn tadpoles are much too small and weak to breach the air-water surface in order to breathe. Researchers found that, instead, the 3 millimeter creatures place their mouths against the surface, expand their mouth to generate suction, and swallow a bubble consisting largely of fresh air.

When they’re especially small, some of these species are essentially transparent (Image 1), allowing researchers to see the bubble directly. But even as the tadpoles aged (Images 2 and 3) and grew strong enough to breach the surface, they observed many instances in which the tadpoles continued this bubble-sucking method to breathe. (Image and research credit: K. Schwenk and J. Phillips; via Cosmos; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)

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