In the Mark Twain story The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, a frog named Daniel Webster “could get over more ground at one straddle than any animal of his breed you ever see.” Now, scientists have visited the real Calaveras County in hopes of learning more about these hopping amphibians. They’ve found that what they see in the lab doesn’t always match the goings-on in the real world.
…In 2009, Henry Astley, then a Ph.D. student at Brown University, and colleagues brought a video camera in hopes of learning more about how far frogs can jump. The frogs perform their hops on the floor of a stadium, one at a time, through days of qualifying rounds. “Fortunately, it turns out we were able to measure the frog jumps without getting in anyone's way, by videotaping the arena from a seat in the stands,” Astley says. During the contest, an announcer says the name of each frog. “Quite a few Kermits,” Astley says. “Mr. Slimy, things like that.” Then it's time for the “frog jockey” to motivate his or her amphibian. “They literally will lunge their whole body after the frogs, imitating a predator—reaching for it and yelling and everything, trying to scare it.” (The local agricultural association has a frog welfare policy.) When the researchers got back to the lab with more than 20 hours of high-definition video, they measured the length of each jump. Fifty-eight percent of the 3124 jumps they recorded were longer than 1.295 meters, the longest jump reported in the scientific literature. One athletic bullfrog covered 2.2 meters in a single bound. Unsurprisingly, frogs jumped by professionals—those committed entrants who catch their own frogs every year and screen them for jumping ability ahead of time—managed longer jumps.