It's not easy BEIN'GREEN Mutant frogs spark a mega-mystery

Just for kids

Kid News

October 08, 1998|By Amanda Vogt | Amanda Vogt,Chicago Tribune

In the nation's wetlands, ponds and nature preserves, deformed frogs are turning up in record numbers.

Like other amphibian populations, the number of frogs has been declining for decades. That's reason enough for concern, given the delicate ecological balance between all living things.

But this latest development really has scientists worried. Why?

It all began in the summer of 1995, when a group of middle-school kids from the Minnesota New Country School in southern Minnesota made a startling discovery on a field trip to a local pond. They noticed that many of the pond's frogs were malformed. Some had weird-shaped or extra limbs and others were missing eyes or toes.

The kids reported their discovery to local wildlife officials, who contacted national environmental groups. Before long, reports of deformed frogs were turning up all over the nation. They've been reported in 32 states.

Although the cause of the malformations remains a mystery, scientists have some theories. They suspect that a change in the environment - caused either by global warming, pollution or exposure to ultraviolet radiation - may be triggering whatever is causing the mutations.

"If you look across organisms, there are many similarities in how they handle" environmental stress, says George Lucier, director of the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences' Toxicology Program. "What's toxic to frogs is often toxic to people."

Want to help? Check out frogs at a nearby pond. If you find a deformed one, take a photo of it or put it in a jar with breathing holes and refrigerate it (it'll go into hibernation), says Bob Szafoni of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Then call the North American Reporting Center for Amphibian Malformations at (800) 238-9801.

1997 Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Knight-Ridder/Tribune, Inc.

Pub Date: 10/08/98

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