Tadpole Tails, Cancer and Science Education
Tadpoles, sometimes referred to as polliwogs, are the aquatic larval form of amphibians, such as frogs. As a child, I spent countless warm summer hours watching them with my friends in shallow Michigan ponds in the woods near my house. I recall first seeing the massive, sticky egg clusters near the pond’s edge. One day, nearly all at once, the small, fish-like tadpoles emerged. They swam (more like wiggled) and swarmed by the thousands in the water. They were fun to play with and extremely easy to catch! A single sweep of an open Mason jar would yield a dozen captives.
As time passed, the free-swimming, fish-like tadpoles did something very strange. They sprouted legs! Hind legs first, if I recall, then front legs. After gaining appendages, the tadpoles lost their tails and became frogs, and then could hop out of the water. Thousands of tiny frogs appeared in the mud and grass around the pond.
Perhaps it can be ascribed to the brevity of the childhood attention span, or perhaps it was the beginning of sandlot baseball and other summer activities, but appearance of the frogs always marked the end of my amphibian-watching season. Nonetheless, one question remained on my mind—what happened to the tadpole tails? We searched for, but never found, a single tadpole tail. Where did they go when the tadpoles lost them?
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