Frogs are slimy and gross and often times forgotten about. They have a wide reach around the world. They can range from being rare to obnoxiously common, plain to vibrantly colored. Despite their seemingly unglamorous nature, frogs play an important part in our ecosystem. Their health essentially acts as a warning sign for us and here’s why.
Frogs are amphibians and one of their distinct characteristics is that their skin is so thin that they are able to both drink and breathe through it. They do have lungs that they can used but when submerged in water or underground they have to breathe through their skin. However, what this means is that they are able to absorb substances in their environments very easily.
Frogs are especially susceptible to agricultural, industrial, and pharmaceutical chemicals. For example Atrazine, a very common pesticide with roughly 60 million pounds used per year, has a significant effect on frogs. Scientific studies have found that Atrazine may cause a variety of cancers and act as an endocrine (hormone) disruptor It mimics the feminine hormone estrogen and could harm human and animal reproductive and hormone systems. Atrazine is generally applied in spring and can accumulate in amphibian breeding pools. Laboratory studies have shown that Atrazine can chemically sterilize tadpoles. It has also been shown to make leopard frogs hermaphrodite (bearing both male and female gonads in the same organism). This makes them unable to successfully reproduce and caused a sharp decline in the number of leopard frogs.
There are other examples of hormonal and pollution effects on frogs. Amphibians have been compared to canaries in the coal mine: just as miners used canaries to warn them of toxic gases in the mines, amphibians might be warning us of unsafe environmental conditions that could eventually seriously impact our health. Agricultural runoff, industrial waste and pharmaceutical chemicals are being dumped into the environment and their impact is not being measured. Frogs may be giving us a sign that our environment is contaminated and that it might eventually it will work it’s way up the food chain to us.
- amphibian ark
- Indian Institute of Science Centre for Ecological Sciences
- (pictures) Flickr Creative Commons License