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A frog's life is food for thought

of their gut biology and physiology," she said.

"We put animals into aestivation and woke them up and fed them to find out how quickly they got everything going again."

Ms Cramp's results show that animals can maintain the functional capacity of the gut during aestivation despite significant energetic cost, allowing them to digest food as soon as they resurface from aestivation.

"Despite the marked decrease in absorptive surface area of the gut of aestivating frogs, they appear to actually increase their absorptive capacity during aestivation," she said.

"Within 36 hours of the ingestion of the first meal the gut had all but returned to its pre-aestivation state, and by the completion of digestion of the first meal the gut was operating on par with that of non-aestivating frogs," she said.

"This rate of rectification of gut morphology is virtually unparalleled with the small intestine having increased in mass by 450 percent within just 36 hours."

The results of Ms Cramp's study could have important implications for human survival.

"Human survivors of starvation can endure the horrific and often fatal effects of re-feeding after starvation, including massive diarrhoea and gastric ulcers," she said.

"Science still understands very little about why that occurs and what can be done about it."

Ms Cramp said scientists originally thought that during aestivation frogs would shut down all non-essential energy consuming processes. Her results contradict this theory.

"It was really interesting to us that they do not appear to shut down the functional aspect of their gut biology," she said.

"It is important that they are able to eat and digest from the first meal because they are only up for as little as a week at a time before they have to go back down again."

The results of the study were featured in a recent edition of Science magazine and form the basis of Ms Cramp's PhD study,
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Source:Research Australia


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