I came across a very long, very detailed and well written blog post from a Canadian (blogger name is gullyfourmyle) who contends amphibians are declining in large measure because of airborne toxins from our use of oil — and that, like a canary in a coal mine, they are warning humans to stop polluting. I’ve pasted the part about the frogs below, but the whole post can be found here.
FROGS ARE US
Frogs and people have a lot in common. Our mitochondria, the stuff that binds our cells together, is exactly the same. In fact every living thing on the planet has the same mitochondria. What that means to the average guy on the street without going into a long list of building blocks we share with our frog relatives, is that what affects frogs also affects us in much the same way. Essentially if something in the environment is killing them, you can rest assured we are at exactly the same risk, it may just take longer:
The world’s frogs, newts and toads are dying. They are being over-harvested for food, their homes are being destroyed, and most worryingly, entire species are disappearing for no apparent reason. That is the conclusion of more than 500 herpetologists around the world, reported in Science today. Stuart S., et al. Science, published online 10.1126/science.1103538 (2004).
“Time and again, scientists have visited woods filled with frog song just 3 or 4 years earlier, only to find them frogless. Now, researchers have finally caught a killer in the act–a new fungus that has turned up in 120 frogs and toads of 12 species in Australia and seven species in Panama during mass die-offs in relatively pristine areas. Fourteen scientists from Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada will describe the fungus–from the phylum Chytridiomycota” – in the 21 July Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Fungus May Drive Frog Genocide, Jocelyn Kaiser, WILDLIFE BIOLOGY, 3 July 1998
“There is the canary in the coalmine argument,” says Stuart. “Because of their sensitivity, amphibians are the first species we would expect to show adverse reactions to climate change and new emerging diseases.” Amphibians face a bleak future, Emma Marris, firstname.lastname@example.org, October, 14, 2004
In 1993, a then unknown biologist by the name of Karen Lips who became internationally famous when her research into new species of amphibians found in Panama was made public. Her research was in a hitherto unexplored mountainous region of Panama where she was discovering new species of amphibians virtually one after the other. It was like finding her own Galapagos Islands. It was a different story when she returned to continue her research in 1997:
…imagine Karen’s shock when she returned to her research site in western Panama and discovered dead and dying frogs everywhere: “I’d been going to Fortuna, Panama, since 1993. In 1997, I returned to find all these dead frogs. They looked fine, like they went to sleep and didn’t wake up.” Frogs are food to so many snakes and birds, a herpetologist could spend many seasons in some places without seeing a dead frog lying on the ground.” Kim Y. Masibay, Science World, March 11, 2002
What ties these events together is air. Nothing associated with planet earth permeates our environment as completely as air and air is a vehicle for the transportation of material that can mix or float along and become one with what we consider our atmosphere. Airplanes take great advantage of the density of air, lift and speed to fly. The waste products of the energy consumed to make this happen are exhaust emissions. If you remove the passenger and cargo component of the aviation experience and equate what an airplane does as a cordless paint-gun, you have in our aviation system, a most complete mechanism for spraying a life dissolving chemical wash over the entire globe.
Frogs have three areas of their bodies that can aid in gas exchange: skin, lungs, and the thin membranes lining the mouth and pharynx. Frogs can breathe through their skin while they are in wet places. They can also exchange gases between their blood vessels and with the outer environment. Unlike us they have mucus glands in their external skin tissue, they keep the skin moist. We have those same mucous glands but they line our nose and respiratory tract rather than our outer skin. Sweat glands are evolved mucous glands for land-lubbers. Frog skin absorbs a lot of dissolved oxygen from the ambient atmosphere.
The second respiratory surface is the thin membranes lining the mouth and pharynx. Our membranes exchange gases too, but not to the degree that those of frogs do.
The lungs are third respiratory surface, thin, elastic and lightweight, they are organs that inflate and deflate rhythmically, while the frog is at rest. Adult frogs have poorly developed lungs, due to their mostly motionless existence as they wait patiently for the next unsuspecting bug.
Now just imagine adding crude oil-derived solvents to the air the frogs must breathe. Solvents that turn their protective mucous to an acidic solution which then evaporates more quickly than pure water. You have a cooling and immobilizing effect that would tend to freeze the frog in place and strip it of its immune system (the mucous) at the same time. Since frogs live in environments that are thick with fungal spores, it is no stretch of the imagination to figure out what happens next is it?