In the Mi’kmaq legend of Kluskap and the giant bullfrog, the source of water is from the belly of the frog. Kluskap identified the frog as the culprit who was hoarding the village’s water and squeezing it, he was able to release the community’s water supply.
Sometimes, legend has a way of being confirmed in modern-day science. We now recognize frogs and other amphibians as being significant indicators on what is happening in our environment. This becomes really alarming when we look at the state of the frog in our world today.
Frogs and other amphibians have been on the planet for over 360 million years. Scientists are saying that, in our lifetime, up to 1/2 of the amphibian species that we now know will be extinct! More than 120 have already gone in recent years.
To raise awareness, 2008 has been named the International Year of the Frog.
Habitat loss is the major threat and the rapid spread of a disease called amphibian chytrid fungus is of urgent concern because of its tendency to drive species to extinction quickly. Amphibian chytrid is currently unstoppable and untreatable in the wild, even in protected areas. In the environments where it thrives, the fungus can kill 80 percent of native amphibians within months, leading to widespread amphibian extinctions.
So why should we care? Amphibians are a critical part of a healthy natural world. In addition to their value as a beautiful part of nature, they offer many benefits to us.
Amphibians are “the canaries in the coal mine”. They are among the first species to be affected by environmental stress so when they show declines in the wild, it serves as a warning to other species, including humans.
They play an important role in the food web as both predator and prey, maintaining the delicate balance of nature. Where they are disappearing, detrimental effects are already being documented.
Amphibians eat pest insects, benefiting successful agriculture around the world and minimizing the spread of diseases, including malaria.
The skin of amphibians has substances that protect them from some microbes and viruses, offering possible medical cures for a variety of human diseases, including AIDS.
Frogs have had a special place in various human cultures for centuries, cherished as agents of life and good luck.