Izzy the Frog Facts in Lumina Land
In 1990 scientists noted an alarming fact
from California, Colorado, and Wyoming to Brazil, Switzerland, and
Japan, frogs were disappearing. Recognizing that frogs are a living
barometer of earths environmental health, a number of biologists set
out to find out why. Is this human folly or a quirk of nature doing
Leaving the water and moving into trees
and on land allowed the descendants of the early amphibians to
colonize a wide range of new habitats. Some species spent their
entire lives in the topmost levels of the trees.
The word amphibian comes from the Greek
anphi and bios meaning double life. They can live or
function both on land and in water.
Some frogs and toads carry their eggs or
tadpoles on their backs or in a skin pocket, others store their eggs
inside the body, in vocal -sacks or even into the stomach. Two
species of toads give birth to live young that are tiny versions of
their adult selves.
Frog calls are inherited, unique and
species specific and are primarily used for recognition and
Their ability to leap is amazing with the
worlds distance record for frog jumping at 33.5 feet in three
consecutive jumps or an average of 17.5 feet per jump.
Frogs and toads have shared the world of
humans as far back as our species memory extends. With their huge
eyes, their quadruped bodies, their love of and need for water and
their eerie voices, frogs and toads are both distantly alien to
humans and uncannily like us.
The Park River Watershed
The type of watery home that
Izzy relies upon for survival is actually a combination
of clean water, healthy plants, and animals, called a
freshwater ecosystem. The quality of any freshwater
ecosystem is shaped by activities on the surrounding
land. Wherever we work, play or sleep, we are part of a
territory which drains into a stream, pond or river.
That is, we carry out our daily activities in one or
more drainage basins—or watersheds—and a significant
portion of the water (from rain or snow) that falls on
our homes or playing fields or streets makes its way
downhill into a river or stream that is supporting the
likes of Izzy.
Every water body in
Connecticut—even a backyard brook—has its own watershed.
And there are watersheds within watersheds; the Park
River Watershed, which consists of 77.2 square miles
just south of Hartford (pictured below), is nested in
the larger the Connecticut River Basin, which in turn
comprises part of the watershed for Long Island Sound.
For more watershed maps, see
Izzy in Trouble?
There are 10 species of frogs in
Connecticut. For photos and calls, see
Because of their dual life on land
and in water, frogs are a great barometer of the health of an
ecosystem. The skin of frogs is thin, permeable, and often wet or
coated in mucus. These traits allow the frog to effectively breathe
and drink through their skin! These traits also make frogs very
susceptible to foreign pollutants. It is not a good idea to handle
an amphibian if there are any chemicals (bug spray, lotion, etc.) on
your hands because it can be absorbed through the frogs skin and
potentially kill it. When waters become polluted with fertilizer,
pesticide, oil, and other chemicals, the frog may passively absorb
the pollutant and become sick or die. The pollutant could also have
an effect of the hormones of tadpoles as they develop which can lead
to sterile adults.
The dual life of frogs also makes them
very susceptible to another form of human impact: habitat
modification and destruction. By building roads and developments
the natural habitat is split up into separate fragments. Travel
between these fragments is often a perilous journey in the open for
a frog. If they dont dry out on the road, they may be picked off by
a predator or have an unfortunate encounter with a car. Development
also reduces the overall amount of habitat which forces frogs into
denser populations allowing for rapid transmission of diseases such
as Ranavirus or the deadly fungal infection Chytridiomycosis.
Some wetlands are only wet for a small time during the spring, but
these vernal pools and ephemeral wetlands are extremely important
for the reproduction of spotted salamanders, wood frogs, and other
species. The loss of these wetlands has had a drastic effect on
these species. For Vernal pools, see:
Some of the most degraded freshwater
ecosystems in Connecticut are ones whose drainage basins have a high
percentage of impervious surfaces, deforestation, septic systems,
and pesticide use.
Impervious surfaces, such as parking
lots, highways and roadways, collect heavy metals and chemicals from
car exhaust and other sources, which is then carried off by
rainwater or snow melt and deposited into local waterways. The
stormwater runoff from highways typically includes highly
carcinogenic polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), PCBs, pesticides,
lead, cadmium, chromium, copper, nickel, chloride, sulfates and
cyanide. PAHs alone have been implicated as a significant source of
mortality for the invertebrates that serve as food for frogs. See
publications by the Environmental Protection Agency:
According to Thomas Schueler,
the Executive Director for the Center for Watershed
Protection, At 10% imperviousness in its watershed, a
stream is considered at risk. Between 11% and 25% the
stream is considered impacted, unable to sustain its
full range of natural biodiversity. At 25% or higher,
the stream is unable to support any level of
biodiversity. Upwards of 50%, and the stream is unable
to support any life form. (http://www.waterlaws.com/commentary/interviews/schueler_interview.html).
Trees play a major role in
a watershed in intercepting rainfall and encouraging its
infiltration into the soil. Thus, reducing tree cover
leads to increased stormwater runoff, incidence of
flooding, water pollution and degradation of freshwater
cleansers and personal hygiene products--and
pharmaceuticals that exit our homes through bathroom and
kitchen drains are part of the newly studied emerging
contaminants that threaten freshwater resources in the
United States. The U.S. Geological Survey has concluded
that household products plus caffeine and prescription
drugs are frequently present in streams and lakes across
the country. Some of these substances can act as
endocrine disruptors, and a 2008 Yale University study
on frog deformities in the Connecticut Valley suggests
they may be partly to blame for the prevalence of
intersex traits in frogs of suburban Connecticut. The
study, led by Dr. David Skelly, found that suburban
frogs in fact had a higher incidence of intersex traits
(21% of those collected) than frogs found in either
urban (18%) or farming (7%) areas. See
Izzy at your School
Where is the nearest stream or
pond or vernal pool to your school?
What man made modifications of
the natural environment are near your school?
Which frogs live near your
Have abnormalities been found
in frogs in the Connecticut River Valley?
Where do detergents go that
are used when you wash your car?
Where does your drinking water
Adopt a stream in the
watershed and monitor the water quality and habitat
along its banks.
Text written by
Elizabeth Langhorne, Pat Houser, Tony Nowacki, Joy Wulke,
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