By Megan Gregory, Newport Aquarium Public Relations Aide
While Leap Day’s true purpose is to keep the year aligned with the seasons, animal lovers across the globe are using it to celebrate the world’s best leapers, FROGS!
We can find our leaping friends around the world on every continent except Antarctica. The Romans believed frogs brought good luck into their homes while the native Aborigines of Australia thought frogs brought rain, which would help their plants grow. Now a days, they can be found close to water areas like ponds, lakes, swamps, and marshes.
Frogs are a member of the amphibian family. Amphi means both while bio means life which refers to frogs living both in water and on land. The frog’s life cycle starts as an egg which is hatched into larvae (or “tadpoles”), as the larvae grows it develops its back legs, then its front legs, and finally emerge from the water. This process could take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 years!
Frogs are important to the earth for several reasons. First, they are an indicator species. This means we can look at frogs in a specific area and determine how well it’s doing. If the frogs are thriving then nothing needs to be changed, but if they are struggling with survival then something is wrong with the ecosystem and immediate action is required.
Second, frogs are both predator and prey. They serve as food for many animals such as birds, snakes, and large fish. But, frogs help control the population of insects, eating a variety of spiders, mosquitos, flies, and sometimes mice. Frogs are known for using their long sticky tongues to catch their food. Their tongues are about a third of the size of their body. If humans had the same tongue, it would reach all the way to our belly buttons!
And lastly, frogs are very beneficial to human medicine. Since ancient times, frog skin has been used to help regrow skin. It was also believed that the oil secreted from frogs contain a pain reliever and help strengthen the immune system. More recently, it was discovered that compounds from their skin could be the key to treating cancer and HIV.
There are currently over 4,900 species of frogs and toads worldwide. However, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) states that nearly 1/3 of the world’s amphibian species are threatened with extinction. Major threats include:
- habitat loss
- global warming
- Chytridiomycosis- a fungal disease that affects about 30% of the amphibian species.
How can you help?
Leap into action by becoming a FrogWatch USA volunteer with the WAVE Foundation at Newport. Aquarium. FrogWatch USA is a citizen science program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), is always looking for passionate individuals to help collect data on local frogs and toads.
FrogWatch USA trains volunteers to identify local species, listen for their calls and teach them how to report their findings.
Leap day only comes once every four years, come spend your extra day leaping in Newport Aquarium’s Frog Bog, which is sponsored by CET and Think TV. You can see over 15 species of amphibians, play giant Frogger, and discover the sounds of frogs and toads from all over the world.
(Newport Aquarium Frog Bog Video: https://youtu.be/dLWuEFqmMRs)