Posted by: Green Knight | April 29, 2011

Save the Frogs Day

[Note to all the kind people who keep visiting this post: please take a few extra seconds to look at the followup, called “Batrachian Backlash,” also here on the Hot Sheet.  Thanks!  Also, check out And see the new one on saving the bees, pleez.]  [Blogger’s Note: all you cool frog fans should care about turtles as well.  May 23rd was World Turtle Day, and June 16th is World Sea Turtle Day.  I discuss both in a recent post dated 6-14-11; page up!  Also look at American Tortoise Rescue’s slideshow on frogs and turtles,, as shown in the comment below.  Thanks, Susan!]

Today (April 29th) is International Save the Frogs Day!  Not just about frogs, it’s also about other amphibians such as toads, newts, and salamanders.  All amphibian populations have been in an alarming state of decline worldwide for about 30 years, which makes them what biologists and paleontologists refer to as “indicator species.”  For frogs in particular, because they’ve received more study, the causes seem to be due to a number of factors.

The thinning of the ozone layer hasn’t been getting much attention lately, as the problem has largely improved after CFCs were banned in almost all countries.  However, I just read last week that the “hole” over the northern hemisphere was worse this year  than in decades, apparently due to cold stratospheric temperatures (upper-atmosphere science is rather complex).  Thinner ozone means more ultraviolet getting through, which can damage amphibian eggs.

Next is the disturbing chytrid fungus problem.  Usually benign, one of the chytrids started being found in the skin of frogs in the early ‘80s, where it apparently interferes with respiration.  The bad actor, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, was newly identified at that time, but no one knows if it was an opportunistic mutation or a brand-new, fully fledged speciation.  Kind of ironic that fungi AND fungicides are harming amphibians.  “White-nose syndrome” has been decimating bat populations from east to west in North America for the past few years, and it isn’t known yet if the associated fungus is the cause or just moves in after the bat is infected by the mystery source.

Also in the early 1980s, biologists began noticing frogs being born with extra sets of hind legs.  To date, it’s uncertain what’s causing this phenomenon, although pesticides are suspects.  The best known is the widely used herbicide atrazine, which has been shown to disrupt estrogen, cause sterility in male frogs, hermaphrotidism in tadpoles, and turn some males into females.  Contradictory studies were carried out by, guess who?  The manufacturer, whose methodology was criticized as sloppy by third parties.

In a University of South Florida study, the organochlorine fungicide chlorothalonil, also widely used in the U.S., killed almost 90% of exposed tadpoles at levels expected from agricultural runoff, and at lower levels harmed the livers and immune systems.  It’s also thought to have altered stress hormone levels.  Incidentally, the compound has also shown up in bees and bee pollen.  Bees are extraordinarily sensitive to pesticides, and honeybees have been suffering Colony Collapse Disorder for as yet mysterious reasons; this obviously warrants further study. Honeybees are not native to the western hemisphere but were brought over by the Europeans, and now constitute an important pollinator for agriculture; native bumblebees and other species are also subject to high pesticide sensitivity.

Finally, non-native fish, whether invasive by accidental introduction or more commonly from being stocked for sport fishing, have wreaked havoc on amphibian eggs and larvae, not uncommon with introduced predators.  This has especially been observed in California, mainly because it’s been looked at the most.

I always like to include a positive note if possible, and it’s been found that many frog species secrete hitherto unknown antibiotics in their skins, which demonstrates the importance of biodiversity and another reason to “Save the Frogs,” albeit a selfish one.  When it comes to endangered species, I say “whatever works.”

So find a Frog Day event in your area and get involved!  Our amphibious friends could use our help.  See the links below for further information.

Save the Frogs Day, including events worldwide:

The Center for Biological Diversity’s amphibian campaign:

“Extinct” frogs found:

Atrazine:   (Syngenta’s response/defense)


Antibiotics in frog skins:

And this just in, with more info on frog skin remedies, which I found on Jeff Corwin’s Facebook page (he’s the amusing and daring guy on Animal Planet):,238595,en.html

Here’s a whole stream if National Geographic one, which you can stop at any time, but the first one is about a Tanzanian toad currently extinct in the wild:

(and the image is of a poison dart frog from Costa Rica, just to show that some things are meant to be seen and not touched…this IS the “Hazard” Hot Sheet, after all.)



  1. Don’t forget the effects of birth control!

    • True enough! A lot of the meds we flush get past even our drinking-water treatment capabilities.

  2. I just reminded myself that the abnormal extra or missing hind limbs are caused by trematodes, and just discovered that there’s Ranavirus, that’s been known since the ’60s.

  3. The clock is ticking for turtles and frogs –

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