Watch tadpoles breathe by sucking in air bubbles at water's surface


By James Urquhart

Big tadpoles (right) have no problem breaking the water’s surface to breathe but smaller ones (left) have to suck air bubblesKurt SchwenkMost tadpoles have to breathe air to survive but hatchlings are too feeble to break the “skin” on a pond’s surface caused by water tension – so they suck air bubbles instead.
While tadpoles have gills, most also develop lungs and frequently surface to breathe air, which is essential for survival in water containing low levels of oxygen.
Kurt Schwenk at the University of Connecticut saw the unusual behaviour by chance while studying salamanders feeding on tadpoles in the lab. “What I saw blew my mind. I assumed this had been described before but it hadn’t,” he says.


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