Saturday, April 28, 2012

Save The Frogs Day!

   As I'm sure you know today is "Save the Frogs Day."
   The frogs even have their own website, which is right here:
   You can find almost anything you'd hope to know about frogs on that site.
   I first became aware of frogs by reading my favorite novel, "Cannery Row," by John Steinbeck. In there was a chapter where the lead character, Mack, and his gang went out hunting for frogs which they hoped to sell later. The following is a classic paragraph written by a classic writer:

   "During the millennia that frogs and men have lived in the same world, it is probable that men have hunted frogs. And during that time a pattern of hunt and parry has developed. The man with net or bow or lance or gun creeps noiselessly, as he thinks, toward the frog. The pattern requires that the frog sit still [like the two pictured above], sit very still and wait. The rules of the game require the frog to wait until the final flicker of a second, when the net is descending, when the lance is in the air, when the finger squeezes the trigger, then the frog jumps, plops into the water, swims to the bottom and waits until the man goes away. This is the way it is done, the way it has always been done. Frogs have every right to expect it will always be done that way.  Now and then the net is too quick, the lance pierces, the gun flicks and the frog is gone, but it is all fair and in the framework. Frogs don't resent that. But how could they have anticipated Mack's new method? How could they have foreseen the horror that followed? The sudden flashing of lights, the shouting and squealing of men, the rush of feet. Every frog leaped, plopped into the pool, and swam frantically to the bottom. Then into the pool plunged the line of men, stamping, churning, moving in a crazy line up the pool, flinging their feet about. Hysterically the frogs displaced from their placid spots swam ahead of the crazy thrashing feet and the feet came on. Frogs are good swimmers but they haven't much endurance. Down the pool they went until finally they were bunched and crowded against the end. And the feet and wildly plunging bodies followed them. A few frogs lost their heads and floundered among the feet and got through and these were saved. But the majority decided to leave this pool forever, to find a new home in a new country where this kind of thing didn't happen. A wave of frantic, frustrated frogs, big ones, little ones, brown ones, green ones, men frogs and women frogs, a wave of them broke over the bank, crawled, leaped, scrambled. They clambered up the grass, they clutched at each other, little ones rode on big ones. And then--horror on horror--the flashlights found them. Two men gathered them like berries. The line came out of the water and closed in on their rear and gathered them like potatoes. Tens and fifties of them were flung into the gunny sacks, and the sacks filled with tired, frightened, and disillusioned frogs, with dripping, whimpering frogs. Some got away, of course, and some had been saved in the pool. But never in frog history had such an execution taken place. Frogs by the pound, by the fifty pounds. They weren't counted but there must have been six or seven hundred. Then happily Mack tied up the necks of the sacks. They were soaking, dripping wet and the air was cool. They had a short one in the grass before they went back to the house so they wouldn't catch cold."

   Save the frogs from what, you may ask. Good question.
   You see that pretty little girl in the second picture above. Well she's holding a proclamation signed by the mayor of Tampa, Florida, where a whole bunch of frogs live.
   That proclamation in part states that frogs have survived in more or less their present form for anywhere from 350 to 250 million years (like sharks, which are declining in population as well), having survived ice ages, asteroid bombardment, and other environmental changes (wherein the dinosaurs did not), yet in recent years frog populations have been declining around the world in unprecedented numbers, that nearly one third of the world's amphibian species are threatened with extinction, and that up to 200 species of frogs have already become extinct. This is due to pollution, infectious diseases, habitat loss, foreign species invasion, climate change, and over harvesting by guys like Mack.
   As we've discussed previously with our friend the pika, frogs health and population strength are considered as early indicators of environmental stress, with their health indicative of the health of the entire biosphere, which means what happens to frogs may very well begin happening to other species as well, including are own.
   The proclamation goes on to describe how important frogs, toads, tadpoles, and salamanders and such, are to the environment, eating pests and keeping our waterways nice and clean, and all, and how they are used in pharmaceuticals and medical research, and if the frogs and toads are all gone we're going to have to start using orphans to replace them.
   It is signed by Bob Buckhorn, the mayor, who proclaimed today, April 28th, as "Save the Frogs Day," which was cool as a today is "Save the Frogs Day," everywhere else too.
   The mayor goes on to say that he urges all citizens to join him in supporting efforts to protect Tampa's frogs, "for the benefit of the ecosystem, and ultimately, mankind."
   It was signed March 11th, 2012, and has an official stamp and everything.
   Wikipedia agrees with the mayor:
"These declines are perceived as one of the most critical threats to global biodiversity, and several causes are believed to be involved, including disease, habitat destruction and modification, exploitation, pollution, pesticide use, introduced species, and increased ultraviolet-B radiation (UV-B). However, many of the causes of amphibian declines are still poorly understood, and the topic is currently a subject of much ongoing research. Calculations based on extinction rates suggest that the current extinction rate of amphibians could be 211 times the background extinction rate (background extinction rate, also known as ‘normal extinction rate’, refers to the standard rate of extinction in earth’s geological and biological history before humans became a primary contributor to extinctions) and the estimate goes up to 25,039–45,474 times if endangered species are also included in the computation."
   There's a whole entry on Wikipedia devoted the decline of amphibian populations, which is right here:
   And it seems that the entire point of "Save the Frogs Day," is that what ever happens to the frogs will adversely affect humans, if not right now, then in the near future.
   So we better understand what is happening to the frogs... and save them! Why? Because frogs help us. And they're cute. Just look at that frog up there sitting down like he owned the place.
   Frogs have a right to life too, and it would seem that humans are currently hurting them.
   Stop that humans, you are being bad.
   We need our frogs. Frogs are our friends.
   I think I've made my point perfectly clear. As a matter of fact I believe everyone should go out and adopt a frog as soon as possible...
   On second thought, don't do that. It would probably screw things up more.
   Just stop poisoning them, polluting the air with greenhouse, ozone eating gases, and building condos on their ponds (and chasing them down with gunny sacks).
   We will end our time with the frogs with some fun Frog Facts:

There are 6,317 amphibian species, of which 5,576 are anurans (frogs and toads), 566 are caudates (newts and salamanders), and 175 are gymnophiones (caecilians). (Caecilians are amphibians that lack limbs. They look a bit like earthworms or snakes and can grow up to 1.5 m (5 ft) in length. As they generally live underground, they are the most under-studied group of amphibians).

What's the difference between a frog and toad?
Not much. True toads (bufonids) tend to have short legs and dry 'warty' skin, though there are plenty of frog species that fit this description as well. Toads tend to have toxic secretions, but so do poison dart frogs.

Not all amphibian species have tadpoles. Some caecilians give birth to live young and some salamanders have larvae that essentially resemble the adult stage, but with external gills. There are many terrestrial frog species that emerge as froglets directly from the egg, bypassing the tadpole stage altogether. This adaptation allows them to live far from water bodies (on mountain tops for instance (with the pikas)), and provides the parents with an increased ability to guard their eggs, which are laid on land. It also removes a serious risk that aquatic larvae must face: predation by fish or dragonfly larvae. Many terrestrial salamanders employ this strategy as well.

Amphibians are the oldest land vertebrates. Ichthyostega was an amphibian species that lived in Greenland 362 million years ago.

The smallest frogs are the Paedophryne dekot and Paedophryne verrucosa from Papua New Guinea, sizing in at only only 9 mm in length. Next up is the critically endangered Cuban frog Eleutherodactylus iberia. These frogs measure only 10 mm (0.4 in) when fully grown. They are threatened by pesticides(Atrazine is one of the world's most common pesticides: over 80 million pounds of it were used on American crops last year, and it has been in use for 50 years. This harmful pesticide is an endocrine disruptor that can turn male frogs into females at concentrations as low as 2.5 parts per billion. Atrazine causes cancer in laboratory mammals and developmental problems in fish. Atrazine is one of the most commonly detected pesticides in rainwater, groundwater and tapwater in the USA. Atrazine is used on corn, sugar, sorghum, yams, rice, Christmas trees, and for lawn care. Frogs and humans share half our DNA, so Atrazine can't be good for humans either. That's likely why the European Union banned the harmful pesticide in 2004. But the company that produces it, Syngenta (based in Switzerland) has $11 billion in revenues, and has a huge lobby to keep Atrazine on the market in the USA. SAVE THE FROGS! needs your help to ensure Atrazine gets federally banned and out of production as soon as possible!), and by large-scale mining operations that destroy their habitat.

The world's largest frog is the Goliath Frog Conraua goliath, which lives in western Africa. They can grow to be over 30 cm (1 ft) long, and weigh over 3 kg (6.6 lbs). This species is endangered, due to conversion of rainforests into farmland, and due to their being used as a local food source.

Some species only live a few years, but many live 6 or 7 years. The African Clawed Frog Xenopus laevis and the Green Tree Frog Litoria caerulea can live about 30 years in captivity. Determining their life span in the wild is difficult, but if anybody wants to follow some frogs around for a couple decades, please let us know.

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