A Toad’s Sticky Saliva

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Frogs and toads shoot out their tongues to capture and envelop their prey in a fraction of a second. They owe their success in this area to two features: the squishiness of their tongues and the stickiness of their saliva. The super squishy toad tongue deforms to touch as much of the insect as possible. That shape-changing helps deliver the saliva, which is an impressively fast-acting, shear-thinning fluid. Under normal circumstances, the saliva is sticky and about as viscous as honey. But the shear from the tongue’s impact makes the saliva flow like water, spreading across the insect’s body. Then it morphs back into its viscous, sticky self, providing enough adhesive power that the insect can’t escape the toad pulling its tongue back in. (Video credit: Deep Look/KQED; research credit: A. Noel et al.)

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