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A Beautiful Life: High Risk–High Payoff in Genetic Science
Mapping the global emergence of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, the amphibian chytrid fungus. Just after a warm summer rain you may be able to spot the amphibians out and about in my garden, and I cherish every minute of it. A few years back I found myself researching ways to see more of these amazing animals by bringing their natural habitats a bit closer to home. With the number of Endangered amphibians out there looking for a home, why not do what we can to help them?
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In order to help amphibians flourish in your garden, you need to recreate their choice settling grounds. To create a happy home that they naturally choose in the wilderness, you need facilities for shelter, hibernation and breeding. Rocks and logs will provide shelter to all sorts of scary predators out looking for a snack.
Toads will hide under your garden path rocks, so line the borders of your garden paths with them and stack a few piles up near the sides. Toads can hibernate underground by digging beneath the freezing line, but those who do not dig so well crawl into cracks in rocks or logs. Wood frogs make their hibernation spots their own by hiding under leaves and other organic material. What happens next is quite remarkable—most of their body functions stop entirely!
The wood frog stores glucose in its body, which acts like antifreeze allowing this freezing frog to come back to life when the weather warms up. Without a pond you may be lucky enough to see a few toads, but even they have to find a water source to reproduce. Adding a pond to your yard will welcome in a higher variety of amphibians such as a variety of frogs, salamanders and even newts! These wonderful creatures need more hydration and a pond is the perfect ecosystem for water lovers. Pick a spot that has a slightly lower elevation than the rest of your yard and dig a wide hole in the ground.
Cover it in some hefty plastic, and wait for the rain to fill it up little by little. This new pond will not be a perfect home for amphibians, like an established wetland environment would be—the wetlands have had many, many years to develop. They have the perfect plants for shelter, a natural filtration system, and plant and animal remains settled at the bottom which makes them so important to preserve. In order to make your pond as close to their natural habitat as possible, plant one water lily for every three pond plants in gatherings. To avoid killing the plants, you can either stack some bricks in the water and set your plants on them in pots, or raise the water levels at a very slow rate as to match the growth rate of your pond plants.
Place native plants around the circumference to provide more shelter for froglets and toadlets. Your aim should be to match the local hydrology systems of the wetlands, by placing individual plants. Your new pond will provide a hibernation spot for aquatic frogs. They will use oxygen from the water as they partly conceal themselves in the mud underneath the water surface.
If your pond is near a chemically treated lawn, poisonous trees or other plants that can harm amphibians, your eco-system is drastically flawed. Stop using pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and weed eaters in your garden and lawn. There are a lot of ways you can accommodate the purist needs of your new yard mates.
Using compost, for example, will eliminate the need to use chemical fertilizers and prevents solids, oils and heavy metals from getting in storm water runoff. We should consider it an environmental wakeup call when their numbers are dwindling at their current rate. With their delicate ecosystems under attack, you can do your part by creating a safe haven in your backyard. Photo: Mackenzie Kupfer. The abiotic factors of our innovation have become the unsightly, malignant moles on the other wise blemish-free face of Mother Nature.
Oceans crest and trough with the ingestible plastics of our day-to-day lives. And the heavens now cry with an acetic lachrymal fluid, scaring the semi-permeable flesh of the creatures we keep so near-and-dear. One day—should society not experience a cardinal-shift in its moral compass—a trash-laden celestial body will find itself glaring down on the Yucatan, augmenting with each misplaced coffee cup.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Anthropocene. These giants rest in the rocky crevices of fast-moving streams by day and feed via asymmetrical buccal suction by night. In the last issue of FrogLog, authors touched on the conservation status of this giant. In that decade alone, the kilograms of meat collected—under no government sanctioned cap—plummeted by a worrisome eighty-percent. And that was over forty years ago, mind you.
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But fret not, fellow conservationists. But I—and quite possibly a few of. Attaining lengths of nearly two meter and weighing over thirty-five kilograms, the Chinese giant salamander is the largest living amphibian on our planet today. Photo: J. Patrick Fischer.
Essentially blind to its hydrophilic world, giant salamanders utilize what biologist call a lateral line system. Much like the stereocilia of the inner ear, they are able to interpret their surroundings via vibrational stimuli. Photo: Brian Gratwike. And as I began to further dissect this piece of legislation with my conservation-honed scalpel, the darker side of legal loopholes began rearing their malicious heads.
Article 16 and Article 22 are just such appendages. The same article expresses—therefore implying by the negation of the word scientific—that Class II designated fauna can be sold, utilized and purchased without scientific reasoning. So what does this nonchalantly imply—disaster. The survival for these enigmatic giants then begins to mirror their eyesight—bleak. Once the female has laid her five-hundred or more eggs, the male will fertilize them externally. And at that point, the amphibious male Godzilla will viciously guard his brood till they hatch sixty days later.
But on the flip-side of the ocular scale, its extant sister species, the Japanese giant salamander Andrias japonicus , sees its aquatic realm from less visually impaired lens. But never doubt the impact of ingenuity.
These giants may lurk in-and-around oxygen laden streams, but their gene pool remains quite stagnant. As conservationists, what can we do? Educate, first and foremost. There needs to be a conscious shift regarding the consumption and harvest of such endangered animals in China.
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Photo: Yakashi Yamaoku. We can catalyze that change, no doubt.
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