Amphibians Dethroned as Environmental Canaries

african clawed frog photo

Image credit: kuribo/Flickr

It seems obvious that amphibians, with their permeable skin and proclivity for aquatic environments, would be among the first to be effected by chemical pollution and environmental degradation. Indeed, they have long been considered "canaries," or species that indicate alarming environmental trends.

New research, however, suggests that amphibians are no more susceptible to pollution and environmental degradation than the other species that share their habitat.A joint study conducted by researchers from the University of South Dakota, Yale University, and Washington State University, reviewed more than 28,000 toxicological tests to evaluate this assumption. Their conclusion: Amphibians are not uniquely susceptible to pollution.

David Skelly, professor of ecology at Yale University, explained:

The very simple message is that for most of the classes of chemical compounds we looked at, frogs range from being moderately susceptible to being bullet-proof.

He went on to explain that several other factors, including habitat destruction, hunting, and the spread of the Chytrid fungus, have contributed to their sharp decline.

The study evaluated the data in the EPA's Aquatic Toxicity Information Retrieval database. To compile this information, the EPA studied 1,279 different species, including segmented worms, fish, various types of clams, insects, and snails, exposing them to water containing 107 chemical agents.

Jacob Kerby, who led the research team, explained that the "results suggest...all animals are susceptible to chemical stressors."

The research, the team hopes, will help develop more accurate models for evaluating "human-mediated environmental change."

Read more about amphibians:
Frogs: The Thin Green Line
Trout Fishing Causing the Demise of...Frogs
Killer Fungus Attacks Rare Frog Species

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