Year of the Frog (2008)
Frogs are going extinct. So are toads, salamanders, newts, and the intriguingly unusual caecilians. The World Conservation Union's (IUCN) Global Amphibian Assessment, a comprehensive assessment on the conservation status and distribution of 5,918 amphibian species, has shown that almost one-third (32% or 1,896 species) of amphibians worldwide are threatened with extinction and that 165 amphibian species may have already been lost to extinction (IUCN, 2006). In the Americas, the outlook is even more bleak, with 40% of our amphibians threatened, including over 80% of those in the Caribbean region. Fortunately, dramatic declines have not threatened amphibians in Texas, but biologists want to keep an eye on the future.
We need amphibians. Since the days of Aristotle, humans have studied the lives of amphibians and have utilized them for human purposes. Antibiotic and anti-tumor properties, analgesics, anti-inflammatory compounds, natural adhesives, and volatiles have all been isolated from amphibians (Tyler et al. 2007), and researchers have recently turned to toads as a source of cancer-fighting compounds (Ackerman 2008). Approximately 10% of Nobel prizes in physiology and medicine have resulted from investigations that used frogs. Amphibians have been a staple in basic anatomy courses, pregnancy tests of the 1950s and 1960s, the pet trade, and in the human food supply. And of course, amphibians have been important cultural symbols throughout time.
The global zoological community is highlighting 2008, a leap year, as the Year of the Frog to mark a major conservation effort to address the amphibian extinction crisis. Coordinated internationally by Amphibian Ark, an initiative of the IUCN's Conservation Breeding and Amphibian Specialist Groups and the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria, and implemented by regional zoological associations such as the Association for Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the Year of the Frog will engage the public in amphibian conservation and raise funds for amphibian conservation efforts into the future.
Tyler, M.J., R. Wassersug, and B. Smith. 2007. How frogs and humans interact: Influences beyond habitat destruction, epidemics and global warming. Applied Herpetology 4:1-18.
IUCN. 2006. IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe. 2006. Global Amphibian Assessment. Accessed on 30 August 2007.
- Year of the Frog Classroom Presentation
- A Guide to Common Frogs Across Texas (An audio CD of frog and toad calls in Texas is available from Texas Amphibian Watch for $5.00 by calling (512) 389-8062.)
- Year of the Frog Adult Education
How can you get involved?
- Visit your local zoo or aquarium. Many zoos have special exhibits and activities planned for Leap Year.
- Become a citizen scientist and monitor frogs and toads in your community. Texas Amphibian Watch offers a free monitoring packet and a CD of Texas frog and toad calls. Check the Texas Amphibian Watch for all the resources that are available, including a list of frogs and toads that occur in Texas.
- Attend a Texas Amphibian Watch workshop. You can get hands-on training to learn to identify your local amphibians, along with educational resources for teachers. See our list of workshops.
- Take care of your amphibian habitat – use pesticides carefully and sparingly, create backyard ponds and wetland habitat, use native vegetation and natural structures to provide hiding places for amphibians, restrain pets that harm amphibians, and be wise in your use of water and fossil fuels so that amphibians and the rest of us will have good habitats in the future! Texas Wildscapes provides more information.