Why do animals hiccup?

Science writer Stuart Blackman answers your wild question.

A
a
-
Hiccups help tadpoles to transition into frogs

Hiccups help tadpoles to transition into frogs © Sirachai Arungrugstichai / Moment / Getty

 

Hiccups are at least as intriguing as they are inconvenient. These noisy gulps and/or belches induced by involuntary contractions of the diaphragm seem to be far from useful in adults, but there’s evidence that they serve to help expel air from the stomach in suckling infant mammals.

Indeed, we get hiccups less often as we age. They might have truly ancient evolutionary origins. A hiccup-like reflex enables tadpoles to divert water to the gills and air to the lungs as they transition to air-breathing adults – just as our piscine ancestors would have had to do on the way to conquering the land.

 

Click here to read more of our Wildlife Q&As.

Do you have a wildlife question you’d like answered? Email your question to wildquestions@immediate.co.uk or post it to Q&A, BBC Wildlife Magazine, Immediate Media Company, 2nd Floor, Tower House, Fairfax Street, Bristol, BS1 3BN

 

We use cookies to improve your experience of our website. Cookies perform functions like recognising you each time you visit and delivering advertising messages that are relevant to you. Read more here