Frogs, Why Should We Care?

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To start, scientists have already discovered over 1000 anti-microbial compounds from frog skin (1a). One of these compounds kills the HIV virus (2). Each frog species has developed it's own defenses through skin secretions to combat things that might live on their thin, wet skin such as pathogens & fungus. Many of these have been proven to been helpful in human medicine.

If that wasn't enough to convince you, let me remind you that frogs eats insects. They are a natural form of pest control munching away on all those pesky mosquitos. 

Frogs are struggling in the wild: one third of amphibians are threatened with extinction. One of the major culprits of their decline is a fungus that can thrive on their skin called chytrid (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis). Two hundred species have gone extinct over the past 15 years and numerous others have been pushed to the edge of extinction.

Luckily, there are scientists studying chytrid all over the world. While in Andasibe, I assisted in a frog survey where we swabbed over 100 frogs to test for chyrtid. One species we looked at are Grass Frogs (Ptychadena mascareniensis) which are commonly found in rice field puddles. Fifty individuals were collected. One by one, the sex was determined and they were swabbed with a q-tip which was placed into individual plastic vials. These skin secretion samples were then sent to the U.S. to be tested, as there is no testing facility on the island. Soon we had a gathering of children watching. They helped release the frogs back into their ponds at the end of the survey. 

 Rice field where we surveyed frogs in Andasibe.

Rice field where we surveyed frogs in Andasibe.

 The grass frogs surveyed in rice fileds. ptychadena mascareniensis, andasibe.

The grass frogs surveyed in rice fileds. ptychadena mascareniensis, andasibe.

 Children from the village observing the amphibian technicians swabbing frogs.

Children from the village observing the amphibian technicians swabbing frogs.

 Frog in the rice field after being swabbed and released. ptychadena mascareniensis, Andasibe.

Frog in the rice field after being swabbed and released. ptychadena mascareniensis, Andasibe.

 The frog release assistants.

The frog release assistants.

  Mantidactylus betsileanus,  Andasibe.

Mantidactylus betsileanus, Andasibe.

Another survey was done at night looking for Mantidactylus betsileanus. We walked the creek edges with headlamps watching the ground for eye shine and movement until we had collected fifty individuals. The surveys were lead by amphibian technicians, many of them women, from Mitsinjo a community forest that focuses on amphibian conservation. 

Through continued surveys we can understand what is happening with wildlife populations, which is vital for conservation efforts. I will be headed back to Madagascar in 2019 to conduct surveys and create an online data base of herptiles. You can follow and support the journey though www.thingsthatcreep.org.

 A nocturnal lemur was the audience at night.

A nocturnal lemur was the audience at night.

  M. betsileanus  getting swabbed for chytrid.

M. betsileanus getting swabbed for chytrid.

 Joshua Catching  M. betsileanus  at night with headlamps.

Joshua Catching M. betsileanus at night with headlamps.

 I am in this picture. Can you see me?

I am in this picture. Can you see me?


(1a) Ladram A1, Nicolas P2. "Antimicrobial peptides from frog skin: biodiversity and therapeutic promises." Frontiers in Bioscience. June 1, 2016: 1341-71.

(2) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050930080923.htm

Audra BarriosComment