PhD student Rebecca Cramp from The University of Queensland has found that unlike most animals, which can't digest food after long periods of starvation, the green-striped burrowing frog is able to absorb nutrients 40 percent more effectively after 3 months without food, than frogs that had eaten regularly.
"They can take massive meals equivalent to 50 percent of their body mass and maximise their digestive capability from the outset," Ms Cramp said.
Little is known about the effects of prolonged food deprivation on the gut of animals that go without food for long periods. Ms Cramp's study is helping explain why animals such as the green-striped burrowing frog are able to gorge themselves on huge meals without overwhelming their digestive system.
"Nothing was known about their digestive physiology when I first started this project and for an animal that can starve for up to four years it is really interesting when you relate that back to human starvation," she said.
"There is no way a human could last for four years without food."
Green-striped burrowing frogs spend upwards of 10 months of the year in underground burrows in a hibernation-like state known as aestivation. During this time they do not feed and survive on fat reserves.
The frogs return to the surface after heavy rain, sometimes for as little as a week - to find food and build up fat reserves.
During the study Ms Cramp and her supervisor Professor Craig Franklin from the School of Integrative Biology collected frogs from areas west of the Great Dividing Range, including Dalby and Goondiwindi.
They brought the frogs back to the laboratory where one group was kept in aestivation while the other group were not allowed to aestivate and were fed regularly.