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The Animal Kingdom’s Gene Kelly

Gene Kelly isn’t the only one who can tap dance on this earth
Blue Poison Frog (2010) by Smithsonian Institution. Original from Smithsonians National Zoo. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.
Blue Poison Frog (2010) by Smithsonian Institution. Original from Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

Tap dancers are not the only living creatures to tap their feet. Researchers have recently discovered numerous species of poisonous dart frogs that rapidly tap the middle toes on their hind feet. While studies are being conducted to explain the reason behind this intriguing phenomenon, there is a general consensus that it is helpful while hunting for insects. 

Biologists from the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) remarked that color poison dart frogs can tap up to 500 times per minute—a pace that is three times the speed of the swift Taylor Swift song, “Shake it Off”. 

In another study, fruit flies were placed in an enclosed petri dish where the frog could not reach them, resulting in fewer tapping motions. While some believed that tapping positively related to the ability to capture food, another research team disagreed. 

One hypothesis connected the intersection between leaves and the vibrations that motion caused. Frogs would tap on the leaves to encourage their prey to keep moving, aiding in their visibility. Another group suggested that vibrations caused by tapping attracted the insects closer to the frog like turtles sticking tongue out to mimic worms. But in classic science fashion, this hypothesis was also disproven. 

While the true reason still remains unknown, many biologists all agree that this case is quite particular of a predator using sensory cues to lure prey. Although many hypotheses are flying around in this fairly new discovery, current research groups are looking forward to following up on their observations and findings to conclude whether toe-tapping actually helps frogs in their meal search or if they’re purely doing it for the kick of it. 

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About the Contributor
Nicholas Yoo
Nicholas Yoo, Senior Editor-in-Chief
Nicholas currently serves as Senior Editor-in-Chief of the Delbarton Courier. Now in his 4th and final year at Delbarton and also at the Courier, he looks forward to bringing fresh news to the school community on issues that concern topics ranging from the latest world affairs to even the smallest events occurring at Delbarton. Throughout his time with the Courier, Nicholas has enjoyed the luxury of meeting so many talented writers and community members at Delbarton and has felt the full privilege of bringing their stories to life. Besides spending time writing and editing articles for the Courier, he loves studying the history of science, playing the violin, and spending time talking to his friends.