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Friday, April 22, 2011

Frogs Avoiding the Boiling Pots of Water

In a recent post (see here), James Fallows continues his passionate campaign to educate all that this famous saying about frogs is not true:
"If you plunge a frog into boiling water, it will immediately jump out. But if you place the frog into cool water and slowly heat it to boiling, the frog won’t notice and will slowly cook to death."
I am happy to say I can contribute even more evidence.

I made some critical observations while I was in Dunhua, Jilin, a small city in China's northeast (photos of scenes around Dunhua here and here).  While walking around Dunhua I saw these frogs in a central market:


There were many frogs alive and kicking.  However, as seen here:


These frogs were unable to come even close to escaping their container with walls not much higher than many pots.  At least for this type of frog, the boiling water scenario is pointless because the frog isn't going to get out of the pot, no matter the temperature of the water.  That may make for a nice analogy itself, but it certainly isn't the one that's usually intended.

You could now be thinking, "Maybe the frogs didn't really want to get out because they knew they would become happy frog pets."  Well, I suspect not.  Quite a few of the frogs seemed rather determined to get out.  Also, close to where I saw the frogs above I found another place where some frogs later go to um... hang out:


I'm not sure these frogs felt that avoiding any boiling pots of water had led to a much better situation:



Were these frogs merely hanging around to getting a tan?  No.  Like a famous parrot, they're not resting, stunned, nor pining for the fjords.  They are most certainly dead.  No sense of water temperature could have helped them.  I think I could now use the phrase "out of the frying pan and into the fire".  That still works, right?

I suppose some explanation for the hanging frogs would be useful.  The region around Dunhua is famous for Chinese Forest Frogs.  The females are especially prized for their oil, particularly the oil in the oviducts, for a variety of medicines and food (see here, here, and here for more fascinating details and photos).  They are hung to dry to help extract the oil and other goodies.

So, now that these frogs with poor jumping skills have helped provide yet another nail in the coffin of the boiled frog story maybe James Fallows can celebrate with some yummy frog oviduct fat dessert (photo from here):


Bon appetit!

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