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Eats . Crawls Guts to

The nice thing about being a is that you don’t have to chew your food—just gulp, and down the hatch. The problematic thing about being a is that you don’t have to chew your food, which means that if you’ve happened to nab the aquatic Regimbartia attenuata, your food might come out the other end in an undesirable fashion: alive and literally kicking.

Writing today in the journal Current Biology, Kobe University ecologist Shinji Sugiura describes how the , locked behind the ’s jaws, turns around and scrambles its digestive tract. In carefully designed lab experiments, Sugiura found that 93 percent of the s he fed to the Pelophylax nigromaculatus d the predator’s “vent”—aka anus—within four hours, “frequently entangled in fecal pellets,” he writes. The quickest run from mouth to anus was just six minutes. The s then went about their day as if they hadn’t just spelunked a digestive system, and even swam effectively.

Apparently understanding their unique predicament, the R. attenuata s seem to have clambered the intestines of the s. Sugiura showed as much by immobilizing some of the s’ legs with wax—this time, none of them emerged from the anus alive, but as feces, over 24 hours later. This all came as some surprise to Sugiura himself. Given that the predator and prey share habitat in Japan’s rice paddy fields, he hypothesized that the could have evolved some sort of anti- defense. “However, I did not predict that R. attenuata can from the vent,” Sugiura writes in an email to WIRED. “I simply provided the to the s, expecting that the s spat them out in response to the s’ behavior or something.”

Serendipitously, it may be that the adaptations the had already evolved for the life aquatic prepared it for the great journey a ’s digestive system. For one, these insects swim quite effectively by kicking their legs, so perhaps they’re in effect swimming the waste in the ’s intestines. Also, insects breathe holes in their hard shells, or exoskeletons. So to breathe underwater, this particular species of traps a small pocket of air under its wing covers, which are known as elytra. (Think of the polka-dotted flaps that a ladybug opens to take off.)

Video: S. Sugiura/Current Biology

Perhaps it does the same while finding its way a ’s innards. “I would imagine that an air bubble would help the breathe, and may provide a little jacket to keep stomach acid at bay while an is made,” says Christopher Grinter, collections manager of entomology at the California Academy of Sciences, who wasn’t involved in the research.

Source Science Latest

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