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In October, 1996 ZetaTalk stated that the recent spate of Deformed Frogs indicate they are sensitive to emanations from the Earth's core cause by the 12th Planet's approach; in May, 1998 an article explains that scientists cannot find a conventional explanation.

Where Have All the Frogs Gone?
Scientists Gather in Search of the Answer
7:12 a.m. ET (1112 GMT) May 27, 1998
By Amanda Onion, Fox News

In recent years, biologists have slogged to swamps and streams to listen for frogs, and they have come back with some ominous reports: The cacophony of noise that once originated from thousands of nightcallers has dwindled to a scattering of lonely croaks. "It’s been a case of silent streams," said John Wilkinson, international coordinator for the Declining Amphibian Populations Task Force, a group that monitors the worldwide decline in frog populations. "Where there were thousands of frogs all calling away, the next year there are none except dead, bloated bodies."

Since the late 1980s, the number of frogs has dropped precipitously worldwide in a trend that has biologists stumped. Of the more than 4,000 current frog species, more than 200 are approaching dangerously low numbers. Particularly mysterious is the fact that the most severe declines are occurring in pristine environments like Yosemite National Park, Kings Canyon and nature preserves in Costa Rica, Canada and Australia. Habitat disruption - the usual culprit in species decline - appears irrelevant here. So what is to blame?

The fact that that question remains unanswered as frogs continue to vanish has prompted a group of top U.S. officials to zero in on the frog issue. Representatives from the Department of the Interior, the National Institute of Health, the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, among others, will be in attendance as herpetologists (amphibian specialists) from around the world gather in Washington D.C. on Thursday and Friday to compare notes about the declines and possible causes. Most importantly, the scientists hope to convey that the frogs' problem could become our problem and merits more research money.

"Frogs don’t have scales, feathers or fur, so they’re like little sponges," explained Karen Lips, a herpetologist from St. Lawrence University. "If a frog is sitting in the water, it absorbs whatever is in the water or in the air. If it’s on the land, it’s going to pick up moisture in the soil and whatever is in the soil. If there’s acid rain, frogs are going to be hit first." The thin-skinned nature of the slippery amphibian has earned it the distinction of being the "canary in the coal mine" of impending environmental doom. In other words, if chemical pollutants or abnormal increases in ultraviolet radiation or a proliferation of an infectious bacteria is threatening life on Earth, the frogs will be the first to feel it.

The first major sign that frogs were feeling it was the sudden disappearance of the golden toad in 1989. Famous for its bright orange skin that glowed like a night light in the dense tropical forests of Costa Rica, this tourist attraction vanished from view in a mere two years. "It was just like, 'Hey no one’s seen the golden toad this year,'" recalled Lips. "It was hard to figure out what had happened because people just sort of noticed over time. Then it was too late." Two years later, following up on a hunch that whatever killed the golden toad and other frog species in Costa Rica was moving northward, Lips traveled to Panama to check in on frog populations there and stumbled upon a horrifying scene: frog corpses everywhere.

"The bodies looked totally fine, their eyes were open and they looked plump and healthy," she said. "But when we grabbed them they were either frozen dead, or they were so sick they couldn’t move at all." In her study, published a year later, Lips suggested that whatever was killing the frogs in Panama and Costa Rica could also be responsible for the widespread frog declines in Australia, northern California, the central United States and Canada. Pathologists have studied samples of the dead frogs for nearly a year and plan to publish their findings inthe next month.

In the meantime, biologists have collected their own theories about what may be killing the frogs. Knowing that the deaths were caused principally by disease and have affected mostly adult amphibians living at high altitudes, scientists have concluded that a particular fungus or bacteria present in the soil or water is infecting and killing the frogs. But that theory leaves many questions unanswered. "Animals have been getting diseases since life evolved," said Cynthia Carey, a biology professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. "Somehow they're playing a more pronounced role now than ever before." Carey, who has been focusing on the frog problem for eight years, suggests pollutants such as acid rain or man-made chemicals may have weakened frogs’ immune systems, making them more vulnerable to disease. Another possibility is certain fungi or bacteria living underground is thriving under changed environmental conditions.

Acid rain is known to increase the acidity in soil, which in turn affects the population mix of bacteria and fungi living underground. It could be that a change in pH levels alone could spur the proliferation of certain nasty, frog-infecting fungi. These are the kinds of theories that biologists will bring to the table Thursday in an effort to solve the mystery of the declining frog populations and to generate new research funding. As Carey points out, new funding is crucial not only to support current research but also to rally new scientists to the cause. "Biologists can’t solve this problem alone," she said. "We need money to lure scientists from other disciplines. We need immunologists, climatologists and microbiologists to solve this problem."

It could be that whatever is killing the frogs is a fluke virus or protozoan that targets only this amphibious group of animals. But that’s unlikely. In fact, this week the Worldwatch Institute, a nonprofit environmental watchdog group, made the dismal announcement that about one in four vertebrate species surveyed are threatened with extinction. The frog has proven to be a hearty survivor in the past with some species dating as far back as the Jurassic period. But as Wilkinson pointed out, frogs must now deal with a fellow species, one that is perhaps even more threatening to them than the dinosaur. "When frogs were evolving into what they are now, there weren’t any humans around," he said. "That is a big difference."

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