11 Jan 2006

His Eye is on the Frogs and Toads

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Anybody with two brain cells to rub together ought to be able to tell that the sophister, calculator, and economist community is talking rot when you get this kind of story:

Writing in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature, the scientists say that more than 60 closely related frog and toad species have vanished from the tropical forests of Latin America during the last few decades, partly because of warming temperatures. The team says this is the first time such a connection has been made.

The research team found a “near lock-step (link) between the timing of losses and changes in climate,” said lead scientist Alan Pounds of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve and Tropical Science Center in Costa Rica. “It’s a very striking pattern, and it’s hard to find another explanation for it.”

In the first place, we know they’re lying through their teeth, because the vanishing batrachian meme has been a standard Global Warming talking point for a couple of years.

Secondly, do you really believe that scientists are God, sitting on a cloud at MIT, Harvard, and CalTech, keeping an effective eye on every living species in every remote and inhospitable wilderness on earth? Who exactly has been counting, for decades, no less, 60 species of swamp and jungle dwelling frogs and toads? The reality is, no doubt, that some grad student went out twice and counted the frogs and toads to be found in a convenient Latin American one quarter acre somewhere, and then they sat down and started figuring.

Statistical analyses can be designed to prove any thesis you want, since you are always in a position to pick your own assumptions. Unfortunately, reality tends to operate on unknown bases and principles. Simpleton environmentalists believe in a pre-human, pre-lapsarian perfect order of an ideal balance of Nature, but Nature is not like that at all. Nature is always a feast or famine situation. Species are so numerous they darken the sky one day, and then they crash and become rarities. Back in grandfather’s day, a Canada goose was an uncommon trophy, and black ducks and canvasbacks were the staple Eastern wildfowling fare. Today, Canada geese are a non-migratory nuisance species, who’ve developed a penchant for office parks and golf courses, and you get more shots at wood ducks than you do at black ducks or cans.

If frogs and toads are in decline somewhere, you can bet that something else is on the rise. Our amphibian friends have been around a long time, longer than we have, and you can count on them staging a comeback sooner or later.

2 Feedbacks on "His Eye is on the Frogs and Toads"

Blagden Alley

When I saw the article this morning, I thought the logical conclusion was that these species must be very young. After all, if current temperatures kill off the species, then the last time the temperature cycle got this high they did not exist. So they have evolved since then. Vinland was green once, so these species must only be centuries old, not part of the permainent species inventory.

Obviously arm chair science on my part. But has anyone done DNA analysis for species age on these small, fragile frogs?


The classification of species and subspecies is inherently subjective, and tends to vary a bit from one generation of taxonomists to another. But, species tend typically to have developed over very long periods of time in circumstances creating discreet populations, specialized somehow in circumstances from similar evolutionary relatives.

Nobody was keeping any detailed records of Latin American frog and toad species at all until very recently. I expect that an expedition to a remote jungle location would have a good probability of finding some previously undiscovered ones even today.


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