In places across the globe nights are getting quieter, thats because the frogs chirps, ribbbits, and croaks have gone silent. About a third of all frog species are in danger of extinction. Since the 1980s, about 120 species have died out. For millions of years, the abundant, adaptable amphibian has lived and thrived. Through three mass extinctions, while other animals saw devastation; the frogs lived on. Why is now so different?
There may not be just one answer. Combinations of factors contribute to the frogs demise. Invasive species have devastated some frog populations and drought and fires have destroyed frog habitat, but other reasons have been pinpointed as the most harmful. Chytridiomycosis, also known as chytrid fungus has been a major contributor to frog deaths since the 1960s. Pollution and climate change are affecting all life on earth, especially the frogs. Additionally, construction and land development has severely cut back on habitat for all animals.
Chytrid: The Not Fun Fungi
Although chytrid sounds complicated, it is actually easy to understand. Chytrid is a fungus, like athletes foot that grows on skin. Once the frogs skins absorb the disease, it goes to work immediately and quickly. Chytrid causes the skin to go into combat mode. The frog produces more and more layers of skin so that it is unable to breathe or absorb water. The frogs become lethargic and eventually die. This entire process can take less than one season. In some areas, the frog bodies are piled up by ponds and thousands of frogs have died within a few years.
Scientists believe the fungus was spread from the African Clawed frog which was used in experiments in the 1940s and 1950s and eventually released into the wild. Like most invasive frog species, the African Clawed Frog is hearty, able to live in variable climates, and lays many eggs. They have become established in many countries with California and Central American frogs being the most badly affected.
In Panama, ninety percent of all frogs in the cloud forests have died. At this point, conservation groups are trying to preserve species with captive breeding programs. Treatment for the fungus has been limited. An antifungal bath has been used with success. The frogs themselves may be battling the disease by becoming resistant by producing an antibacterial. The Choqui frog in Puerto Rico had been thought to be going extinct from chytrid in the 1980s, but now are returning.
Environmental and human pressures on amphibians have forced them to adapt or die and many have not made it. Habitat loss is a principal danger. As forests are cleared for farming or construction, frogs lose their territories and are unable to breed or feed themselves.
Frogs super skins and amphibian nature also make them incredibly susceptible to pollutants and climate change. Being a terrestrial and water dweller, the frog eats and lives most everywhere in the ecosystem. If there are pollutants, the frogs will absorb them. There are numerous known deformities of frogs thought to be caused by chemicals, ultraviolet rays, and other factors.
Climate change and deforestation has modified the temperature and lands in which frogs live. When water dries up too quickly or rains do not come as scheduled, frogs cannot survive. Plants and muddy areas where frogs live no longer exist in some places.
Frogs are such a vital part of life on earth, if they die, entire ecosystems will fail. Some scientists see the frog as a leading indicator of underlying problems in the environment that will eventually affect all species, even humans.
There are ways to help: for conservation efforts see:
Or the www.amphibianark.org
Fun Frog Fact:
Q: Are there any frogs that give birth to live froglets?
A Yes, the gastric brooding frog of Australia gave birth to her young through her mouth. The frog is now thought to be extinct.