Motion sickness in amphibians

Behav Neural Biol. 1993 Jul;60(1):42-51. doi: 10.1016/0163-1047(93)90703-k.


We explored the question of whether amphibians get motion sickness by exposing anurans (frogs) and urodeles (salamanders) to the provocative stimulus of parabolic aircraft flight. Animals were fed before flight, and the presence of vomitus in their containers after flight was used to indicate motion-induced emesis. None of the species that we studied vomited during the 8 to 10 parabolas of each flight. However, at least one specimen from each of the anuran species Rana rugosa, Rana nigromaculata, Hyla japonica, and Rhacophorus schlegelii vomited in a period of 0.5 to 42 h after flight. Some specimens of R. nigromaculata, H. japonica, and R. schlegelii were also observed retching without emesis either during or shortly after exposure to parabolic flight. We were unable to induce either emesis or retching behavior in the aquatic from Xenopus laevis. Among the urodeles studied we saw no signs of motion sickness in either adult or larval Cynops pyrrhogaster, but at least one larval Hynobius nebulosus vomited shortly after parabolic flight. The amphibian species that exhibited the most motion sickness were the same ones that showed the greatest amount of tumbling during the microgravity phases of their parabolic flights. The most distinctive difference between motion sickness in amphibians and mammals that vomit, including man, is the long delay between a provocative stimulus and emesis proper in the amphibians. The retching behavior we induced in the frogs was identical to that described previously for frogs treated with emetic drugs. H. japonica, exposed to extended periods of microgravity on the MIR Space Station, flattened their bellies against the substrate and dorsiflexed their heads in a manner reminiscent of drug-induced nausea. In light of our current observations of retching behavior in motion sick H. japonica, we suggest that the previously observed behavior of three frogs on the MIR Space Station was a manifestation of motion sickness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anura*
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Female
  • Male
  • Motion Sickness*
  • Urodela*
  • Vomiting