Aquatic beetle survives being swallowed alive by frogs

Research has found that a species of beetle is able to survive the digestive tract of a frog, and come out the other side alive.

Pelophylax nigromaculatus frog. © Shinji Sugiura

Every prey animal worth its salt has a good escape plan. Few, though, wait until they’ve actually been eaten before they execute it.

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While most predators kill their prey before swallowing it, frogs gulp it down when it’s still alive and kicking, allowing their acidic digestive juices to do the rest.

This usually works just fine – unless what they’ve wolfed down is an Asian aquatic beetle named Regimbartia attenuata.

New research shows that the insect can survive long enough in a frog’s gut to give it time to escape unscathed via the rear exit.

“90% of swallowed beetles were excreted within six hours after being eaten and, surprisingly, were still alive,” writes Shinji Sugiura, who conducted the research at Japan’s Kobe University.

Watch a video of the beetle escaping from the frog:

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A beetle species can escape from the vent of a frog. © Shinji Sugiura

The beetle’s tough protective exo-skeleton helps, as does a bubble of air trapped under its wingcases, which allows it to breathe. But there’s more to it than that.

While dead material takes more than a day to travel the length of the gut, one beetle managed to cover the distance in just six minutes.

Regimbartia attenuata beetle. © Shinji Sugiura
Regimbartia attenuata beetle. © Shinji Sugiura

Rather than simply hunkering down and waiting for nature to take its course, it seems that the beetles actively tunnel their way to freedom.

Read the paper in Current Biology.


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Main image: Pelophylax nigromaculatus frog. © Shinji Sugiura