Central Connecticut State University

A r t    G a l l e r i e s

Samuel S. T. Chen Fine Arts Center, Maloney Hall

 


 

 

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 amphibians in?

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 reproductive efforts

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 http://www.parkwatershed.org/maps.html

 

Izzy in Trouble?

There are 10 species of frogs in Connecticut. For photos and calls, see http://ctamp.homestead.com/ctamphibians.html

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: http://www.ct.gov/dep/cwp/view.asp?a=2720&q=325676&depNav_GID=1654

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: http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/nps/urban/index.cfm.

 

http://www.epa.gov/R5Super/ecology/html/toxprofiles.htm#pahs

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 ecosystems.

Chemicals--including 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 http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/08/science/08frog.html

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 school?

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 come from?

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, September 2010

 

 

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Samuel S. T. Chen Fine Arts Center
Maloney Hall, Second Floor
1615 Stanley Street
New Britain, CT 06050

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