ME and Ophelia

Saturday, October 23, 2004

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An early warning of environmental problems

On reading Jim Moore's post about amphibians in trouble, I remembered posting back in March re the puzzle over a three headed frog found in Somerset, England, UK, that had fused bodies and six legs.


According to a BBC report, the creature stunned a BBC wildlife expert - he said it could be an early warning of environmental problems.

Mike Dilger, from the BBC Natural History Unit, said: "I have never seen anything like this. "Frogs are primitive animals - so the occasional extra toe is not that unusual. But this is very unusual."

Here below is an excerpt from an in-depth report by Scientific American that explains frog deformities. Note the report is dated 2003.

Note, in the above BBC report on the three headed frog - dated March 2004 - Mike Dilger, from the BBC Natural History Unit, is quoted as saying: "I have never seen anything like this. "Frogs are primitive animals - so the occasional extra toe is not that unusual. But this is very unusual."

On googling further for deformed frogs, I was overwhelmed by information on deformed amphibians; reports confirming amphibians in dramatic decline , that up to 122 extinct since 1980 and a study is finding nearly one-third of species threatened with extinction. There are photos of recent here and here and many other pictures of many deformed frogs.

Although Mr Dilger may not be able to use a computer to search for reports, it's hard to believe that when one works in such a specialist field, one is not aware of an unprecedented eight-year investigation into the cause of a shocking increase in deformed amphibians.
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Are also taking a toll on other species

Jim Moore links to a Scientific American report "Amphibians Suffering Unprecedented Decline, Global Study Finds" dated October 15, 2005.

On reading the report, I googled for some more information and found an earlier Scientific American report "Explaining frog deformities" dated January 14, 2003. Here are some extracts:

" ... Since 1995, malformations have been reported in more than 60 species, including salamanders and toads, in 46 states. In some local populations 80 percent of the animals are afflicted. International reports show that this phenomenon extends beyond the U.S. Surprising numbers of deformed amphibians have been found in Asia, Europe and Australia as well. Worldwide, extra legs and missing legs are most common.

All stem in part from human activities such as habitat alteration. Chances are good that the factors affecting amphibians are also taking a toll on other species.

An eight-year investigation into the cause of a shocking increase in deformed amphibians has sorted out the roles of three prime suspects.

Current environmental trends suggest that human alteration of habitats is at fault. In human as well as wildlife populations, infectious diseases emerge or become more prevalent as features of the landscape change in ways that favor the proliferation of disease-causing organisms.

Reforestation of the northeastern U.S., for example, has led to the emergence of Lyme disease by encouraging the proliferation of white-tailed deer, which transport ticks that harbor the Lyme bacterium. On the other side of the Atlantic, the damming of African rivers has led to the spread of human blood flukes that depend on snails as a host and cause human schistosomiasis.

During the past several decades, alteration of habitats has also encouraged the expansion of such diseases as hantavirus, Ebola, West Nile virus, dengue fever and AIDS. ..."
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With a strange sense of timing

Recently here, I highlighted the plight of underwater creatures, whose lives were being ruined by man made noise on and beneath our seas. The noise is so great the creatures cannot hear each other speak or hear important signals that help them find their way through long stretches of water. Mammals's sonar signals are disrupted and seems to be the cause of whales beaching themselves and dying. Here is another clue that things are going horribly wrong on this planet.

A sunfish that washed up on a beach in New Zealand is a monster with a strange sense of timing, a marine expert says.

Photo: Nelson Mail [via Boing Boing]

Department of Conservation marine specialist said the most recent sunfish discovery was "a real oddity" because of the time of year.

The 3m sunfish was discovered at Taupata Creek near Puponga by passers-by on Sunday. DOC worker said she was driving past when she saw "a big lump" on the beach, which she initially thought to be a whale. "It looked fresh. It did not smell and it had not been pecked over."

A sunfish washed up on Farewell Spit at Christmas 2002, and another was washed up on Pakawau Beach about four years ago.

"The literature says they can be found in New Zealand's north-eastern waters in warm summers, and they can stray south of Cook Strait. But this is definitely not a warm summer, rather a cold spring."

Mr Baxter said sunfish could grow up to 3m long and weigh up to a tonne. After seeing a photograph of the sunfish, Mr Baxter estimated it was between 2m and 3m long.

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 10/23/2004
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