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Hamline University Graduate School

St. Paul, Minnesota

Scientists in MN and elsewhere had found
malformed frogs in the early 1990s. Then the
issue hit the national media in 1995. Why?
Students in Henderson, MN, found hundreds of
malformed frogs at a site.

A Thousand Friends of Frogs was formed in

the wake of this media coverage
What are we being told by:
Amphibian (frog and toad) malformities
Amphibian populations locally and globally
But first……a few questions!!

Frogs have: Toads have:

smooth or slimy skin warty and dry skin

strong, long legs and stubby bodies with short
webbed hind feet hind legs
two bulging eyes parotid glands behind eyes
lay eggs in clusters lay eggs in long chains

Both are considered ectothermic (often called cold

blooded) because their body temperature adjusts
with the outside environment.

Frogs Toads

A group of frogs is A group of toads is

called called

an ARMY of frogs a KNOT of toads

Frogs and Toads

14 species 92 species
in MN in USA

3,300 species
in the world
glass Frog

Red-eyed Treefrog poison dart frog

White’s Treefrog

Horned Toad
Fire-bellied Toad
Ornate Horned Frog poison dart frog

African Dwarf Frog

Strawberry Poison Dart Frog
MN Frogs and Toads
Habitats for frogs and toads



lakes, ponds, marshes

rivers and streams

Why We Care
1. Frogs and toads are a part of the
planet’s bio-diversity.

2. Frogs and toads

interact in
interesting ways
with each other and
the environment,
i.e. both prey and
Why We Care
3. Frogs and toads provide
benefits to humans
i.e. Gastric Brooding Frog of Australia
might have provided answers for people
suffering from gastric ulcers

(Case of the Vanishing Frogs, T. Halliday and W. R. Heyer).

4. Frogs As Bio-indicators

1) double life--amphibious
2) permeable skin
3) absorb and concentrate toxins--
4. Frogs As Bio-indicators

Biomagnification: a process in which retained

substances become more concentrated
with each link in the food chain
Malformed Frogs & Toads
External Malformations
• extra or missing limbs
• branching limbs
• spikes or protuberances
• missing eyes
• abnormal webbing
Internal Malformations

• reproductive
• digestive
• urinary
Malformed Frog Pictures
Dr. David Hoppe, University of Minnesota-Morris
Dr. David Hoppe, University of Minnesota-Morris
Dr. David Hoppe, University of Minnesota-Morris
Dr. David Hoppe, University of Minnesota-Morris
Causes of Malformations

• genetic origins
• parasite disruption of limb formation
• chemical contamination
• viruses
• ultraviolet radiation
• physical trauma (predation,
Trematode (flatworm) cysts have been
demonstrated to cause problems in limb bud
development in tadpoles

Dr. Stanley K. Sessions, Hartwick College

Dr. Stanley K. Sessions, Hartwick College
Possible Chemical Contaminants

• agrochemicals
• heavy metals
• acid rain
• chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
Types of Agrochemicals

• herbicides

• pesticides

• fertilizers
Dr. Stanley K. Sessions,
Hartwick College
Types of Agrochemicals

applications of the
herbicide atrazine
have led to egg
mortality and
tadpole deformities
(Hazelwood 1970)

Dr. Stanley K. Sessions,

Hartwick College
Correlations to Human
Health Concerns
• high nitrate levels (from fertilizers) in human
drinking water and frog breeding ponds are
• human birth defects result from pesticide
• UV radiation results in blindness and skin
cancer in humans and other animals; DNA
damage in developing frog eggs
Where have all the frogs gone?
Global Population Decline
• a concern during the past decade
• frog declines widespread and well-
• possible causes include habitat
destruction, increased UV radiation,
and chemical contamination
Global Population Declines

• Loss of habitat
from filling in wetlands to create
more farmland for crops, and to
build more houses and roads

(Case of the Vanishing Frogs, T. Halliday and W. R. Heyer).

Global Population Declines
• Increasing ultraviolet radiation
• Pollution by chemicals
• Acid rain
• Pathogens
• Parasites
• Introduction of non-native species
Global Population Declines
Amphibian declines occurring in
locations where habitats relatively


Gastric Brooding Frog

last seen in wild in
Global Population Declines

Monteverde, Costa Rica:

Golden Toad
last seen 1988
Global Population Declines
Other places experiencing declines include:

Puerto Rico
U.S. Rocky Mountains
Cascade Mountain Range in Washington,
Oregon, and California
What You and Your Students
Can Do to Help!
Answer the
Malformity and Calling Surveys
Various types of surveys depending on
your objectives
Malformity surveys: deal specifically
with malformities in amphibians
Calling surveys: need to know the calls of
terrestrial salamander monitoring
aquatic surveys
Malformity and Calling Surveys
A Thousand Friends of Frogs has two
Malformity and Calling

Malformity and Calling Surveys
Malformity survey
Protocols for collecting and reporting data.
Data collected and transferred to scientists
Results on web site

Calling survey: Minnesota Frog Watch

Over 100 volunteers surveying in the state
Working with MN Dept. Natural Resources
Malformity and Calling Surveys
North American Reporting Center for
Amphibian Malformities (NARCAM)

Report data on the web
Malformity and Calling Surveys
North American Amphibian
Monitoring Project (NAAMP)

Protocols for reporting data
State coordinators
Malformity and Calling Surveys
What you need to know to survey?
Depends on type of survey conducted
ID of frogs, toads and salamanders—color,
shape, etc.
Calls of frogs and toads
Let’s learn a few calls!!
Spring Peepers
Student Activities

Other student activities

Student Reports on Project Web Site
Student Poetry
Student Writing
Student Art