By Peter Brookesmith
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Extra info for Creatures from Elsewhere: Weird Animals That No-One Can Explain
Amphibians are highly regarded as research animals, to the extent that several species, such as the clawed toad, axolotl, Spanish salamander, Japanese newt, and the tiger salamander, have been bred in the laboratory for so long they must be considered domesticated. They have been used for testing human pregnancy, for the analysis of gonadotrophin, investigating regeneration, and for experimental embryological research. Wild frogs are still collected in several countries, notably India and Dominica, for the gastronomy trade, and in the United States bullfrogs have been farmed for that purpose also.
Its fins are long and thin and serve as sense organs, and toward the end of the wet season it feeds heavily and lays down a store of fat. As its water dries up it burrows straight down, then turns in a U-shape so that its mouth is upward near the surface. It then secretes large amounts of mucus, which dries to form a leathery cocoon as the mud hardens around it, and it breathes through its mouth via a tube of mucus which extends to the surface. With greatly diminished metabolism it can stay cocooned until the next rainfall, waiting three years if necessary.
But the dormant hibernators do not sleep solidly for their whole term as once believed, and even those that sleep deeply awaken quite regularly. Why a comatose animal should periodically arouse for several hours, or perhaps a whole day, during its long hibernation is unclear and has been the subject of much speculation. Arousal, which entails heat production, is a drain on an animal’s precious stored reserves of fat as it raises its body temperature, and there must be a very worthwhile reason for doing it.