Aussie frogs dig down and muscle up

Some remarkable Australian burrowing frogs can tolerate months of inactivity without their muscles wasting away – unlike a bedridden patient whose muscle size decreases dramatically.

“Muscle structure responds to the physical demands placed on it – limb immobility for just a few days in most animals including humans can lead to degenerative changes,” says University of Queensland PhD student, Nicholas Hudson.

“Australia’s burrowing frogs are a different story – they can emerge months, even years, after a drought with a fully competent muscle and movement system,” he says.

Research comparing frogs kept active with those extracted after nine months in a dormant state in the lab has confirmed this phenomenal ability.

Mr Hudson will describe his research at a ScienceNOW! media conference at the Melbourne Museum today (August 19)

Mr Hudson says many Australian frogs, such as the Green-Striped burrowing frog, survive lengthy droughts by digging an underground chamber and becoming dormant.

“We wanted to find out if muscle mass was maintained, and how it was achieved,” he says.

“It is possible that our improved understanding of the preservation of skeletal muscle is frogs could eventually shed light on human muscle development.”

He is one of sixteen young scientists presenting their discoveries to the media, public and students for the first time, at Fresh Science.

“We’ve selected them from 105 national nominations, brought them to Melbourne, trained them and thrown them to the [media] lions,” said Niall Byrne, Chairman of Fresh Science. “It’s all about focussing public and media attention on Australian scientific achievement.”

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