Life Lines

Props to You, Dr. Narins

I love YouTube! If I could just sit and watch it for eight hours a day, seven days a week, I could probably win a Nobel Prize in Comparative Physiology.

When you get a Nobel Prize, you get the prize itself, a diploma (as though I need another diploma), and of course the Swedish Kroners. I pledge now that should they ever create a Prize in Comparative Physiology, and should I win it, I will donate half of the Kroners to animal research. I am now on record.

Now back to reality.

I just finished watching UCLA’s Peter Narins’ lecture on frog communication. I learned a lot. Most interesting of all was the fact that Narins studies a process called “cross-modal integration” which, put simply, means the joining of visual and auditory cues into a single perception. His research examines how this process relates to aggressive behavior in a species of bullfrog, Allobates femoralis. Using the native call of the frogs, he created a synthetic vocal call. When he played this synthetic call back to frogs, they were actually attracted to the speakers but did not attack them. In the next phase of the experiment, he created a model frog called “Roborana” which had an air sac that could be inflated and deflated to mimic the movements of the vocal sac. What he found was that the frogs exhibited aggressive behavior only when the auditory and visual cues were presented together.

Dr. Narins also discussed research he has been conducting with a species of frog Huia cavitympanum that is only found in Borneo. Similar to mammals, these frogs have recessed eardrums. However, unlike many other species, this frog has the remarkable ability to communicate using vocal calls purely in the ultrasonic range in addition to calls in the audible range. This may allow the frogs to communicate over the loud noise of the rushing water in their environment. His research into frog communication is fascinating and may lead to a better understanding of hearing loss in humans. Although personally, I think it is probably best that humans cannot hear in the ultrasonic range…what a noisy world it would be.