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Q: Replace boiling frog legend with biologically sound example? ( No Answer,   7 Comments )
Subject: Replace boiling frog legend with biologically sound example?
Category: Science > Biology
Asked by: maa8559-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 23 Aug 2006 15:13 PDT
Expires: 22 Sep 2006 15:13 PDT
Question ID: 758865
I would like a biologically sound example to replace the boiled frog
urban legend.  (See info below from a Google answer to the question of
whether the often-repeated story is a legend...and it is.)

I'm looking for a biologically sound example of an animal (not a human
being) which doesn't have the capacity to observe some type of gradual
change ? which leaves the animal in danger because by the time it
observes the change because it has become extreme, it is too late to
avoid the danger.

I want to use the biologically sound example in the same way that the
urban legend is point to cases of slow degradation in the
social and physical environments of human beings which we do not
notice until they become extreme (if then).

From the Google answer:

The urban legend is that if you place a frog in cool water and
gradually turn up the heat, the frog will not attempt to jump out of
the pot and will appear as if it is feeling no pain and will gradually
boil to death.  The story is that being that the frog is cold blooded,
it's body adjusts to it's surrounding environment and it will simply
"allow" itself to boil to death.  It is often used as a metaphor to
say that gradual change can be imperceptible, when
compared to a major change, or just throwing the frog into boiling

"According to Dr. George R. Zug, curator of reptiles and amphibians,
the National Museum of Natural History, 'Well that's, may I say,
bull****. If a frog had a means of getting out, it certainly would get
out. And I cannot imagine that anything dropped in boiling water would
not be scalded and die from the injuries.'"

"Professor Doug Melton, Harvard University Biology Department, says,
'If you put a frog in boiling water, it won't jump out. It will die.
If you put it in cold water, it will jump before it gets hot -- they
don't sit still for you.'"
Next Time, What Say We Boil a Consultant

"Vic's (Dr. Victor Hutchison of the University of Oklahoma) answer was
as follows: 'The legend is entirely incorrect! The `critical thermal
maxima' of many species of frogs have been determined by several
investigators. In this procedure, the water in which a frog is
submerged is heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per
minute. As the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the
frog will eventually become more and more active in attempts to escape
the heated water. If the container size and opening allow the frog to
jump out, it will do so." Naturally, if the frog were not allowed to
escape it would eventually begin to show signs of heat stress,
muscular spasms, heat rigor, and death.'"
University of Georgia

Request for Question Clarification by jackburton-ga on 25 Aug 2006 13:55 PDT
Hi maa8559,
When I was younger I remember seeing a caught jellyfish from the sea,
and upon closer examination I noticed something about the creature's
design which I thought was incredible. The jellyfish, had a number of
small "compartments" where it stored small live fish, premusedly to
feed on at a later time. The captive fish were alive, as the cell
(which was transparent like it's captor) they were enclosed in
contained sea water so they could breathe. I haven't been able to find
more information about this jellyfish, so I don't know exactly how it
catches and consumes its prey, but I think this example meets your
criteria. The captive fish "doesn't have the capacity to observe some
type of gradual change" --the gradual change being that it's oxygen is
running out, resulting in the fact that the jellyfish will inevitably
feast on it (assumedly before it suffocates), by which time it will be
too late to avoid the danger.
I will try to learn more about this jelly, and get back to you.
Let me know your thoughts on this.

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 25 Aug 2006 14:03 PDT
There are a number of dangerous changes that can't be generally
observed by living organisms, whether frogs, humans, or anything else.

A gradual increase in carbon monoxide concentrations won't be noticed,
and will lead to death (as it often does).  Similarly, increasing
radiation won't be detected, even at dangerous levels.   Numerous
other toxic substances can have the same unobservable impacts, as can
disease organisms.

Are these sorts of examples on target for you, or am I missing the boat...?

There is no answer at this time.

Subject: Re: Replace boiling frog legend with biologically sound example?
From: frde-ga on 24 Aug 2006 06:09 PDT
Try lobster

Regardless of what happens, the result is edible
Subject: Re: Replace boiling frog legend with biologically sound example?
From: dops-ga on 24 Aug 2006 08:14 PDT
I don't think this is exactly what you're after but some animals, I
think the sloth can move so slowly that its motion is inperceptible to
the human eye (and those of predators).
Subject: Re: Replace boiling frog legend with biologically sound example?
From: myoarin-ga on 24 Aug 2006 13:54 PDT
Many years ago, there was a news report about a couple in Northern (?)
California who expired in their hot tub with the temperature set at
100+ degrees F, not that they boiled, of course, but apparently they
became so lethargic at the temperature that they they fell asleep, and
eventually their bodily functions failed when their systems could not
deal with the temperature.
Subject: Re: Replace boiling frog legend with biologically sound example?
From: jackburton-ga on 24 Aug 2006 15:21 PDT
I remember seeing a documentary (I think it was on an island) where
they showed these birds that were walking around on or near to the
beach, but the wind would blow these "spiky balls", and every now and
then, a spiky ball would just stick to the bird, like velcro. The bird
would be unable to move, or shake the ball off, so it would just
topple over, immobilized, and it would just lie there, open-eyed,
waiting for death. It wouldn't struggle, chirp, or anything. They were
completely oblivious to these balls, and when these balls touched
them, that was it. The people in the documentary intervened and
removed the balls from some of these hapless birds, even though they
questioned whether it was appropriate to do so. That's all I can
remember about this documentary. Does this example interest you?
Subject: Re: Replace boiling frog legend with biologically sound example?
From: frde-ga on 25 Aug 2006 00:30 PDT
I remember a story about a woman who sunbathed on a settee in front of
a picture window.

She put tin foil on the back so the settee to get an all round exposure.

She was found dead.
Subject: Re: Replace boiling frog legend with biologically sound example?
From: knickers-ga on 02 Sep 2006 07:29 PDT
To add to the carbon monoxide issue. The threshold level for CO for a
human at rest is higher than when active. Hence if you are sat quietly
watching TV you could be slowly posioned without noticing it. By the
time you notice the source, as an example a slow smouldering fire, you
jump up and panic. Your pulse and respiration increase and your
threshold level drops. You then pass out and eventually die. This is a
common method of deaths in the event of fire. People are often found
at near to the exit but die of CO poisioning.
Subject: Re: Replace boiling frog legend with biologically sound example?
From: reptilerescueca-ga on 13 Sep 2006 00:02 PDT
If you reverse the scenerio and put any reptile in a warm area and
gradually reduce the temperature you would indeed find that the
reptile would freeze to death. Being cold blooded they dont notice the
gradual change and as they cool their systems shut down and they are
unable to move. Thus if the temperature gets too cold they can not
move to a warmer location and may freeze to death.

Also if you put a reptile in a cool tank (aquarium) and apply a
heating source such as a hot rock. The reptile will climb onto the
rock for warmth if the tank is not so cold as to shut them down. Since
the tank is too cool to maintain metabolism of the reptile they will
remain on the heating source even if the heat source is hot enough to
cause burns or death of the reptile. This is due to the fact that the
cool cage never warms up enough to support proper metabolism so the
reptile will remain on the heating source in an attempt to bring his
body up to a proper temperature, never realizing that it is being

I do reptile rescue and know this to be true as I have had to deal
with the horrific aftermaths of such encounters with hot rocks and
under tank heating pads when owners were unaware of this fact. I have
pictures of such damage as to sicken the heart!

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