Striped Burrowing Frog: 3-4 Years Asleep!

"I’m just going to take a nap... for about 3 - 4 years!" You might hear this from a frog, or the striped burrowing frog (an species of treefrog) to be precise.

Sleep for the Sleepless

What would people with insomnia give to sleep that long! The striped burrowing frog cyclorana alboguttata doesn’t treat itself to such a long lie-in because it’s tired.

The striped burrowing frog - like almost all frogs - needs water. But if the rain is nowhere to be seen and it can’t find any source of water, it just burrows into the ground. “Wait and see” is its motto.

Doesn’t It Get Hungry?

It has a very special trick to get through this involuntary fast: to save energy, it simply slows down its metabolism. The mitochondria (special parts of the cell that are like the “power houses” of the body) remain active. This means that the striped burrowing frog doesn’t take long to recover from its nap.

Frog Cyclorana alboguttata Frog Cyclorana alboguttata - Photo: Donna Flynn [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Biologists are Fascinated

But what happens to its muscles? If the frog burrows down into the ground and doesn’t move for ages, will they not decondition? In us humans, muscle mass reduces very quickly if we don’t exercise regularly. The striped burrowing frog doesn’t have that problem.

A Frog for Space Travel

Researchers don’t know why its muscles stay healthy. The cause would be very interesting for space travel. As astronauts are weightless due to a lack of gravity, their joints and spine suddenly don’t have to carry any weight for a long time.

This means that their muscles aren’t used, and gradually deteriorate. When the astronauts return to Earth, they can have serious health problems.

Did You Know?

Striped burrowing frogs are the most varied frog family. They mostly have smooth skin and long legs for jumping and spend most of their time in the trees of tropical rainforests. There are around 890 kinds of striped burrowing frogs.