Frog populations have been declining worldwide at unprecedented rates, and nearly one-third of the world’s amphibian species are threatened with extinction. Up to 200 species have completely disappeared since 1980, and this is NOT normal: amphibians naturally go extinct at a rate of only about one species every 250 years!!! Amphibian populations are faced with an onslaught of environmental problems, including pollution, infectious diseases, habitat loss, invasive species, climate change, and over-harvesting for the pet and food trades. Unless we act quickly, amphibian species will continue to disappear, resulting in irreversible consequences to the planet’s ecosystems and to humans.
Frogs are an integral part of the food web
Tadpoles keep waterways clean by feeding on algae. Adult frogs eat large quantities of insects, including disease vectors that can transmit fatal illnesses to humans (i.e. mosquitoes/malaria). Frogs also serve as an important food source to a diverse array of predators, including dragonflies, fish, snakes, birds, beetles, centipedes and even monkeys. Thus, the disappearance of frog populations disturbs an intricate food web, and results in negative impacts that cascade through the ecosystem. Photo courtesy David Dennis.
“Insect masses like fireworks explode.
Dengue, Malaria, West Nile Virus:
Discomfort, despair will fill your abode.
This is what your life will be without us.”
—Frog Poetry by Michael Dutton
Frogs are bioindicators
Most frogs require suitable habitat in both the terrestrial and aquatic environments, and have permeable skin that can easily absorb toxic chemicals. These traits make frogs especially susceptible to environmental disturbances, and thus frogs are considered accurate indicators of environmental stress: the health of frogs is thought to be indicative of the health of the biosphere as a whole. Frogs have survived in more or less their current form for 250 million years, having survived countless ice ages, asteroid crashes, and other environmental disturbances, yet now one-third of amphibian species are on the verge of extinction. This should serve as an alarm call to humans that something is drastically wrong in the environment.
An ecological indicator they are
The most accurate so far
Pollution, destruction and disease
We need to hear their pleas
— Frog Poetry by Shruti Sengupta, 25, India
Frogs are important in medical research that benefits humans
Frogs produce a wide array of skin secretions, many of which have significant potential to improve human health through their use as pharmaceuticals. Approximately 10% of Nobel Prizes in Physiology and Medicine have resulted from investigations that used frogs. When a frog species disappears, so does any promise it holds for improving human health.
A group of Russian researchers found over 76 different antimicrobial peptides on the skin of the European Common Brown Frog (Rana temporaria). “These peptides could be potentially useful for the prevention of both pathogenic and antibiotic resistant bacterial strains” the scientists concluded.
The Northern Gastric Brooding Frog (Rheobatrachus vitellinus) lived exclusively in the Eungella Range in Queensland, Australia. These amazing frogs could actually shut down their gastric juices while rearing their young inside their stomachs! They therefore held great promise for advances in human medicine, as research on these frogs may have resulted in a cure for peptic ulcers, which affect 25 million people in the United States alone. Unfortunately, the gastric-brooding frogs vanished within a few years of being discovered by scientists. The health of humans and frogs is clearly intertwined.