Veronica from Bolivia just told me about a frog I hadn’t heard of before — Telmatobius culeus, or the Lake Titicaca frog.  This species has to deal with very thin oxygen high in the Andes, so mother nature has given it special characteristics. The following is excerpted from Livingunderworld.org. Note that the species is considered vulnerable and yet people are reportedly eating them.  Full article HERE.

Telmatobius culeus is referred to as the Lake Titicaca Frog, and is only found in Lake Titicaca. Because of the lower oxygen content in and around the lake, T. culeus must have an efficient method of obtaining the necessary amount of oxygen for survival. To do this, T. culeus respires mainly by means of cutaneous respiration (breathing through the skin), is exclusively aquatic, and possesses large folds of skin all over the body that make it appear flabby and prehistoric. The extra folds of skin increase the amount of oxygen absorbed through the skin because they increase the surface area to volume ratio; a characteristic that is also observed in other permanently aquatic amphibians. These frogs also do “push-ups” that create small disturbances in the water, which increases oxygen flow. The unique blood of T. culeus also aids oxygen absorption. The blood has the smallest erythrocytes (red blood cells) of all the amphibians, and the highest amount of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin are molecules in the blood that bind to oxygen, so the more hemoglobin an animal has, the more oxygen it can carry in the blood at one time. Because of their aquatic nature, these frogs have evolved reduced lungs, and rely almost entirely on cutaneous respiration.

Although classed as “vulnerable” with C.I.T.E.S., T. culeus are eaten in restaurants in Bolivia and Peru, and are a popular tourist dish. Recently, they have been collected for use in what the natives call frog juice, or Peruvian viagra. The frogs are literally put in a blender, and consumed.

Daniel Craig, Prince Charles, Pele, Prince William, Prince Harry, Robin Williams, Joss Stone, Harrison Ford, and Kermit the Frog costar with a bright, green frog for a video PSA supporting the Prince’s Rainforest Project. There is a frog in every scene, and no other animal, which underscores that people are starting to get it: amphibians are the canaries in the coal mine for our planet’s health — and our personal health, too. As you check out the Prince’s Rainforest Project, keep Amphibian Ark in mind, as well.

Wish we had been able to pull off something this magnificent during 2008 the year of the frog. But what a great boost to 2009.

In Madagascar, scientists have discovered up to 221 new species of frogs. Here’s the CNN report. This has led the research team to wonder if the count of 6,000 amphibian species we have assumed are on the planet are, in truth, 12,000. Excerpt:

“The diversity of species in Madagascar is far from being known and there is still a lot of scientific research to be done. Our data suggest that the number of new species of amphibians not only has been underestimated but it is spatially widespread, even in well studied areas,” said Professor David R. Vieites, CSIC researcher to the press at the Spanish National Natural Sciences Museum in Madrid.\

That should not create any false sense of security, or relief, about the plight of amphibians. Applying the new, suggested number of 12,000 species, that just means 4,000-6,000 of them could disappear in our lifetime, instead of 2,000-3,000.

A Sunday salute to the Ohio State scientists trying to bring the wood frog back to Franklin County, Ohio. This story from the Columbus Dispatch is very interesting.

The bat crisis hit home this morning in my city of St. Louis. A nearby cave has been closed because of a fungus that’s killing bats. Bats are dying off in alarming numbers because of a fungus called “white nose syndrome.” The problem was discovered in the Northeast several years ago. This lead from the Washington Post in early April sums it up:

“First, the frogs began disappearing, with as many as 122 species becoming extinct worldwide since 1980. Then honeybee colonies began to collapse. Scientists fear that bats might be next.”

With hours to go before the close of April 30, I proudly report that Frogmatters has had a record month for visits. I know it’s not up there with Treehugger.com or Mongabay.com, but it’s great to see continued and growing interest in the amphibian crisis — even after 2008 which was declared the Year of the Frog. Continued thanks to Amphibian Ark for all they are doing.

april-09-blog-traffic

I just got an email message from Jeff Corwin (OK, a lot of people got the same email) on behalf of Defenders of Wildlife. Jeff has been a great friend to Amphibian Ark. He’s taped PSAs you can find on YouTube. He talked about Amphibian Ark and held up a Panamanian Golden Frog on the Ellen Degeneres show. Here’s the email message from him:

Dear Jeff,

Yesterday, I was in Washington, DC to testify on behalf of Defenders of Wildlife before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies.

My message was simple and urgent: Within my youngest daughter’s lifetime, 20-30% of the world’s known species may be on the brink of extinction if we do not act now to address the impacts of global warming on our wildlife.

Congress has heard from me. Now they need to hear from you, Jeff.

Please send your U.S. Representative a message today and urge him or her to dedicate just 5% of the anticipated revenue from new global warming cap and trade legislation to safeguard wildlife and ecosystems in a warming world.

As a wildlife biologist and host of my own show on Animal Planet, I’ve seen the devastating effects that global warming is already having on our world’s wildlife and their habitat.

I have been to the North Pole to study the iconic polar bear, whose habitat is melting away before our eyes.

I’ve traveled the world studying the decline in the planet’s already-vulnerable amphibians — a decline that threatens up to one-third of our amphibian species. And scientists fear that climate change could dramatically accelerate these devastating losses.

But you don’t have to go to the ends of the Earth to find the effects of global warming on our wildlife. The pika and the wolverine in the Rockies, our nation’s waterfowl, even fish, shrimp and oysters are already in trouble.

Join me in urging Congress to protect wildlife threatened by global warming. Please send a message to your U.S. Representative today.

As a biologist, I firmly believe that we should not only reduce carbon emissions that are fueling global warming, but also expand our scientific understanding of global warming’s impacts on the living world.

Without this knowledge, we cannot develop and implement an effective strategy to safeguard our precious wildlife in a warming world. Please urge Congress to take action for our wildlife today.

These are exhilarating and challenging times that we live in. But with the help of caring people like you, I know we can secure the resources, knowledge and action that we need to give our vulnerable wildlife a better chance to survive the threat of global warming.

Sincerely,

Jeff Corwin

Got this email from the folks at Jackson Hole Film Festival. Good to see frogs are the focus for their Earth Week community event:

Happy EarthWeek.Friday evening we will host another wonderful free community event, at the Center for the Arts, featuring award-winning filmmaker Allison Argo’s latest film, FROGS: The Thin Green Line. This evocative film chronicles the current global amphibian crisis, described as the largest extinction since the age of dinosaurs.

We are not immune here in Jackson Hole–after the film, you will hear about the creatures in our area, and the research underway with biologists Deb Patla and Peter Murphy. We will be distributing identification cards widely throughout the Valley, so you (and anyone you know–take a few to give away) can become a citizen-scientist in the coming months. Who knows, with all of us keeping an eye out, maybe someone will spot the Northern Leopard Frog (last seen in 1995)! Deb Patla has agreed to be the “point of contact” and will confirm sightings and forward information to the appropriate agencies as well as the NatureMapping project.

This project was funded by 1% for the Tetons–please support the businesses that even in the worst financial times, have committed to putting their dollars into tangible programs that directly benefit the creatures and landscape around us!

Come early–as part of the Center’s weeklong Open House, Jackson Hole Music Experience’s Friday Live will feature the Miller Sisters in the Center Lobby starting at 5:00. There will be chili as well as beverages available, so you won’t have to leave if you get hungry.

6:30–Peter Murphy will demonstrate amphibian radio tracking and discuss telemetry research

7:00–FROGS: The Thin Green Line, introduced by Director Allison Argo

8:00–Discussion and Q&A with biologists and filmmaker

Thank goodness for the scientists who clang the bell — who leverage the drama to wake us up to what’s happening to the planet. Without them, the only endangered species we’d know about would be banks.

Most scientists, from what I can tell, are a reserved group of people — at least when talking about their area of study to regular people like me. They have hypotheses that predict a very different future for our planet. But they are usually very cautious about becoming a crusader for their prediction unless they are 100% certain that they will be proved right.

That doesn’t describe all of them, of course; some scientists clang the bell to get us to pay attention, hopefully convincing us to change our behaviors.

Enough scientists have written and talked about the crisis facing amphibians that they prompted me to create this blog.Still, I look at the traffic that this blog attracts, and it’s certainly not creating a groundswell. Frogmatters gets about 5,000 views a month, holding steady at that marker for the past few months.

I’ve compared the looming mass extinction of amphibians to a plague and to an AIDS virus. I’ve repeated the metaphor that frogs are the canaries in the coal mine at least 20 times.  I’ve written about the chytrid fungus jumping the Panama Canal, and wiping out the chicken frog population of Montserrat.

I’ve tried to highlight the drama of this race to the froggy bottom because if more people are drawn to drama (and we are), then more people will become aware, and then more people will either write checks or call their governments to demand a rescue.

Then I read this quote in The New York Times: “I think a lot of this threashold and tipping point talk is dangerous. If we say we passed thresholds and tipping points today, this will be an excuse for inaction tomorrow.” That’s what Stanford University earth scientist Kenneth Caldeira said in a scholarly debate about using the phrase, “the tipping point,” to describe our climate being on a precipice. Full store HERE.

Using drama as a device to save the planet, and the animals that reside on it, is a double edged sword. What happens if you convince people to listen to your scariest, fact-based prediction — and they don’t respond? What’s left in your bag of tricks then ?

It’s  a very scary thought, but not as scary as how the story will end if we don’t keep trying.

Keep trying.

What Jennifer Holland has reported in National Geographic is one of the best summaries of the amphibian crisis I have read. The photos are beautiful, the anecdotes fresh and unforgettable. You need to read it. Click HERE.

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