The Speed Eater

by Leslie Bulion

While swimming in its grassland pond,
This frog’s exceptionally fond,
Of gobbling down its prey, unchewed,
Two hands to mouth, it stuffs in food.

Frog surface-breathes, then scoots beneath.
It lacks a tongue, has no frog teeth.
Frog stirs a cloak of mud. Unviewed,
frog hides inside to ambush food.

Mosquito larva, tadpole, worm,
Quite mushy-dead, or live and firm,
These treats all put frog in the mood
To shove down scads of finger food.

Each hind webbed foot wears three black claws
For tearing larger prey, because
A gape-mouthed gulp would just be rude
Instead, frog shreds, then stuffs in food.

  — Leslie Bulion

Copyright © 2020. All Rights Reserved. From Amphibian Acrobats. Peachtree Publishing Company. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

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About this Poem

Some frog species lunge at passing prey, then grab and swallow with the help of their short, flat tongues. Large frogs may swallow small rodents or birds. But most frogs flip out long, sticky tongues to snap up prey. And most have upper teeth used to grip their meal, not chew it.

The African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) has neither tongue nor teeth. But that doesn’t stop this gray-green aquatic frog from eating everything it can get its hands on! When it senses underwater vibrations from small prey such as worms, insect larvae, or even tadpoles, it reaches out over and over with long, grabby fingers and quickly stuffs food into its mouth.

Laboratory studies with African clawed frogs have led to improvements in human medical care, but pet frogs released into the wild have often survived and bred, causing problems for native frogs in California and elsewhere in the world.

Active at night, this super swimmer is also a scavenger that eats dead animals. It tears larger carcasses or prey with its sharp hind claws, then furiously shovels in the shreds. Such manners!

A kyrielle is a poem form is written in four-line stanzas. The first two lines in each stanza rhyme with each other, forming a rhyming couplet. The third and fourth lines in each stanza also rhyme with each other. The fourth line in each stanza (or the end of the fourth line in each stanza, as in this poem) is repeated. The challenge is to find enough rhyming words to repeat the end rhyme sound in all of the poem’s stanzas! In this poem I’ve rhymed food with unchewed, unviewed, mood, and finally, rude.

From Amphibian Acrobats

Step right up and learn all about the lively participants in the Amphibian Acrobat show― from the agile Wallace’s flying frog to the bouncing Venezuelan pebble toad to the tricky salamander called the yellow-eyed ensatina.

These show-stopping creatures hail from around the world and your own backyard! They shape-shift and sky dive, balance and climb. You’ll marvel at the astounding agility of “The Olympic Jumpers” and you’ll be awed by the incredible stamina of the intrepid “Marathoners.” Plus, you may be surprised by the antics of the amphibians called caecilians. Come along and get to know all about these lively denizens with this entertaining collection of science verses.

Author Leslie Bulion includes a science glossary, notes on poetry forms, and resources for information about these extraordinary animals. Witty drawings by Robert Meganck add another layer of fun to this humorous and informative exhibition starring some of the world’s most remarkable frogs, salamanders, and caecilians.

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About the Author

Leslie Bulion creates award-winning science poetry steeped in hands-on learning experiences, field observations, research, humor and imagery in a variety of poetic forms. Her illustrated collections invite readers on multi-layered science adventures exploring birds, insects, entire ecosystems, and even human anatomy. Leslie’s graduate science background and her years as a school social worker inform both her poetry and her science-infused novels for young readers. Check out her newest funny science poetry collection, Amphibian Acrobats (Peachtree, March 2020)!

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