(Frogs like this, when tadpoles, have biolectrical patterns on their faces that scientists recently detected; Image: gojo23)
In fiction, electricity was needed to give life to Frankenstein, but a new study suggests nature does something similar.
Scientists have just observed never-before-seen bioelectrical patterns on an embryonic tadpole, outlining where its eyes, nose, mouth, and other facial features will later appear.
It's possible that all animals, including humans, exhibit such energy flashes during developmental growth periods.
The phenomenon is described in the journal Developmental Dynamics.
The discovery came serendipitously, as Tufts researcher Dany Adams was filming early stage tadpole development. She decided to leave a videocamera on all night, in hopes of getting some good basic time-lapse footage, but she wound up capturing the never-before-seen biolectrical patterns.
You can see them too, in this video:
The flashes are caused by a process called ion flux, which causes groups of cells to form patterns marked by different membrane voltage and pH levels. When stained with dye, the negatively charged areas shine brightly, while the other areas appear darker. The result? "Electric face."
"When a frog embryo is just developing, before it gets a face, a pattern for that face lights up on the surface of the embryo," Adams, a research associate professor in the Tufts' Department of Biology, further explained in a press release. "We believe this is the first time such patterning has been reported for an entire structure, not just for a single organ. I would never have predicted anything like it. It's a jaw dropper."
The movies were, she says, "unlike anything I had ever seen. I was completely blown away. I think I thought something like, 'OK, I know what I'll be studying for the next 20 years.'"
You can read more about the process at this Tufts page.
While this study focused on bioelectricity specifically during animal developmental stages, I wonder if some of us as adults possess more it than others? If so, certain people may literally have a very strong magnetic presence that others can somehow sense.