Science can surprise you. And inspiration can come from anywhere. Biomechanics researcher at Brown University, Thomas Roberts, is proof of that! While looking at records in the Guinness Book of World Records with his son, something didn’t seem quite right. Scientific studies had previously shown the maximum distance of a frog’s jump to be around 1 m, but the world record showed jumps of over 2m.
So Roberts did some creative research of his own at a local county fair. Hours of video recording and observation showed that previous research had obviously underestimated frog jumping performance. You may be asking yourself, “Why should I really care about jumping frogs?”- but trust me, there’s a good reason to care. Frogs are often studied for their relevance in muscle performance, and they can be a very accurate model for human physiology studies.
Observing frogs at the fair seems like pretty unconventional animal research, but it proved to be extremely helpful! Based on observations, it seems that leg muscle isn’t the only factor in contributing to jumping distances, and this could help us understand physiological traits of other animals- including humans. Here’s to thinking- and jumping- outside the box!
Most people don’t have the opportunity to observe prairie dogs hanging out in groups in the wild. But if you did, you’d notice that they are playing an EPIC game- a combination of Marco/ Polo and “the wave” that was so popular at ballparks in the 90s.
Out of nowhere, prairie dogs will hop up on their back legs, stick their little hands up in the air, and yell “wee-oo!” And immediately, their buddies will all begin to answer them with a “wee-oo!” response, starting a wave of this behavior across the group. Seriously, you need to watch the videos of this below- it’s pretty cute.
So… why? It’s not just a fun way to pass the time- it’s also a way to check in on their buddies and make sure that everyone’s doing ok. It’s been described as a “test of their emergency broadcast system,” and as long as the one who called “Marco” gets a lot of “Polo” responses, they chill out. But if their friends fail to respond to the roll call, everyone is more alert for possible danger.
This Marco/Polo game shows that prairie dogs are cognizant of the mental states of individuals in their group- and understanding more about their social behavior is pretty cool!