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314413.  Fri Apr 11, 2008 6:04 am Reply with quote

Flash wrote:

Q: Where do frogs live?
Forfeit: Ponds

Any thoughts from anyone? I fear I may be over-simplifying.

Frogs are considered amphibians

not because they go in and out of the water like an ‘amphibian’ airplane, but because most of them begin life as aquatic larvae or tadpoles and later change shape and go out on land to live.

S: “Frogs” by David Badger (Voyageur Press, 1995).

314417.  Fri Apr 11, 2008 6:11 am Reply with quote

During the Middle Ages, servants were employed ‘for the sole purpose of keeping the noise [of frogs singing] down by beating the pond, throwing stones into the water, or otherwise disturbing the frogs.’

During the French and Indian wars in America, the entire village of Windham, Connecticut, “fled naked from their beds” one night, having been awakened by the sound of an army approaching. “After a flight of half a mile” they sent a delegation to surrender to the invaders - only to find that the “army” was “an army of thirsty frogs going to the river for a little water.”

S: “Frogs” by David Badger (Voyageur Press, 1995).

314427.  Fri Apr 11, 2008 6:18 am Reply with quote

I've only just remembered that I did toads for the animal ig book. Might as well bung that in:

<<TOADS (other than cane toads)

It’s estimated that twenty tons of toads are squashed on British roads ever year. Bufo bufo, the common toad, follows the same path, century after century, to its ancient breeding ponds - even though, in many cases, this now means crossing busy roads. Volunteers wait for them by the side of the road, and carry them to safety in buckets. Because this has to be done at night, it’s a dangerous job, so is always done in teams.

There’s no strict difference between frogs and toads - toads are a subset of frogs. Generally speaking, toads crawl instead of hopping, have rough skin, are fat-bodied, and live drier lives than frogs. Most frogs have teeth; most toads don’t.

All toads and frogs blink when they swallow. This pushes the eye right up against the roof of the mouth, which helps force the food down the throat.

Toads’ poisons come from glands behind their eyes (and in some species skin warts.) Some toads can squirt poison from behind their eyes.

Skin colour varies according to season and location, as well as the age and sex of the toad. Toads tend to be well-camouflaged, in addition to which they can remain completely motionless for hours on end.

In Britain we have two toads - the quite rare Natterjack and the quite common Common. Under British law, natterjacks are a protected species - it’s a crime to interfere with the animal or its habitat. By contrast, the common toad has only one legal right: it’s against the law to sell them.

Common toads slough their skin - and eat it.

Mating takes place when male toads ambush the females at breeding sites such as ponds. They climb on the females’ backs - this is called amplexus - using the “nuptial pads” on their fingers to give them an unbreakable grip.

Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, male toads end up humping other males. The male underneath gives a harsh, high-pitched croak of protest, repeatedly, until the one on top gets off. This is the most commonly heard of all toad calls, which tells you something.

They make the same noise if a human picks them up (pardon the expression). Female common toads are mute.

The larger the toad, the deeper the croak. They compare voices to see who would win a fight - and thus avoid the need for the fight itself.

At a pond in Hamburg, in 2005, toads started exploding during the mating season. Thousands of toads, swollen to three times their usual size, crawled out of the water, making eerie screeching noises, and went pop. Toad entrails were propelled up to a yard away.

The authorities feared toxic pollution, or a new “bird flu” style health emergency, but when the “pond of death” was pumped into tankers and analysed at laboratories, no clue was found. Exploding toads were subsequently reported at other sites in Germany and Denmark.

One theory is that the pond was infected by a fungus or virus, brought in by nearby racehorses. Another is that birds peck the livers from living toads; the toads then puff up, which is their natural defence mechanism against predator attack, and water enters the cavity in their body through the wound, and thus they keep inflating until they pop. (Two years previously, crowds of Hamburg crows had taken to attacking humans en masse, without warning, in a local park.)

The midwife toad (Alytes obstetricans) in Spain is the first species decline in Europe specifically linked to global warming. A 26-year-study showed that the toads were being killed by a fungal disease which thrives in the warmer temperatures. Because they live in water and on land, and are highly sensitive to changes in temperature and relative dryness, amphibians - and especially frogs and toads - are seen as “canary” species, giving warnings of forthcoming mass global extinctions. More than 60 species of jungle frogs and toads in Latin America have disappeared in just a few decades, partly due to rising temperatures. Frog and toad extinctions are seen by ecologists as the first absolute proof of the role of climate change in biodiversity loss.

Few animals eat toads, because of their poison, but a snake (Rhabdophis tigrinus) on a Japanese island has not merely learned to eat the toad and survive the toxin; itself non-venomous, the snake actually stores the toad’s poison and uses it itself.

Linneaus, the great taxonomist, wasn’t keen on toads: "These foul and loathsome animals are abhorrent because of their cold body, pale colour, filthy skin, fierce aspect, calculating eye, offensive smell, harsh voice, squalid habitation, and terrible venom, and so their Creator has not exerted his powers to make many of them." In fact, there are as many amphibians as there are mammals, including 3,800 species of frogs and toads.

In the 1950s, pupils at Clayesmore - a “progressive school” in Dorset - spent several years studying toad migration; their research was eventually published in a scholarly journal. First, the boys had to find a way of identifying individual toads. First they put elastic garters on them - but the toads shook them off. They painted the toads, but the paint washed off. They sewed tiny, numbered “running shorts” for the animals, but getting the toads into them proved too difficult. So ... “with some reluctance,” they finally decided to mark the toads by cutting their fucking toes off.

Toads were used for many years in pregnancy tests - which, sadly, weren't very accurate. The best-known test was to rub a woman‘s urine into a female toad‘s back. In theory, if the woman was pregnant, the toad would lay eggs. [Male toads have also been used for pregnancy tests - being injected with urine, I think - but I can’t find a site on this that you don’t have to pay for.]

A few years ago, Appeal Court Judge John Roberts, in the US, ruled that the federal government could not protect the arroyo toad under the Endangered Species Act because "for reasons of its own (it) lives its entire life in California."


Last edited by MatC on Mon Apr 14, 2008 7:36 am; edited 1 time in total

314431.  Fri Apr 11, 2008 6:22 am Reply with quote

Flash wrote:
You'd think that the archetype of what constitutes a frog might well include lungs - which would mean that this wasn't one.

Apparently, frogs are quite difficult to define. They are “notorious for their lack of definitive external characters,” and “taxonomists have struggled for years to assign and standardize scientific names for individual species.”

Linnaeus, who coined the term Amphibia, described frogs and toads as “foul and loathsome” and “a very queer assembly.”

S: “Frogs” by David Badger (Voyageur Press, 1995).

314434.  Fri Apr 11, 2008 6:24 am Reply with quote

The USA imports over 1.25 million pounds of frog legs per year, from Bangladesh, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

S: “Frogs” by David Badger (Voyageur Press, 1995).

Not the prime exporters of frog that you’d guess at, I’d venture.

314453.  Fri Apr 11, 2008 6:40 am Reply with quote

Further to suze, above, on the origin of “frog” meaning Frenchman, this book goes with a pre-WW1 slang dictionary by Farmer and Henley which also likes the heraldic origin, but with slightly different detail. They say that frog formerly referred to “a Parisian, the shield of whose city bore three toads, while the quaggy state of the streets gave point to a jest common at Versailles before 1791: Qu’en disent les grenouilles?, ie ‘What do the frogs - the people of Paris - say?’”

It is thought possible that the three toads device is the origin of the fleur-de-lis; rather than being either a flower or a weapon, some heraldic experts believe the fleur-de-lis is actually a toad.

S: “Frogs” by David Badger (Voyageur Press, 1995).

314456.  Fri Apr 11, 2008 6:42 am Reply with quote

Ha! Great article.

Q: How do you make a toad croak?

You can't help but read this:
and so their Creator has not exerted his powers to make many of them

as tongue in cheek, but I suppose he was actually being quite straightforward.

314457.  Fri Apr 11, 2008 6:43 am Reply with quote

Since all toads are frogs, I might as well stick the cane toads stuff I did for animal ig here, too:


Bufo marinus, the cane toad, giant toad or marine toad, a native of Central and South America, was introduced into Australia in the 1930s to eat beetles which were destroying the sugar cane crop. There were initially 102 toads. Today there are up to one hundred million.

They proved useless against the sugar beetle, because the beetles lives high up the sugar cane - and cane toads can’t jump high enough to catch them. Instead, they quickly became a pest species themselves. They expand their range by several kilometres a year, eating animals smaller than themselves and poisoning potential predators.

Cane toads eat any animal they can get in their mouths. Unusually [uniquely?] for amphibians, cane toads will eat stationery objects, such as pet food. Instead of drinking, cane toads absorb moisture - including pools of their own urine - through their bellies. During floods, they can absorb so much they die.

Now, Bufo marinus appears to be evolving longer legs, allowing it to cover the continent even faster. Modern populations move about five times faster than they did in the 1930s. It’s been found that they prefer to use highways to travel, presumably because it’s easier than walking through the bush.

There were no Australian toads before the cane toad was introduced.

The cane toad is poisonous as an egg, a tadpole and an adult. Any animal ingesting its poison dies of heart failure within minutes. Australian museums display snakes which died so quickly that the toad is still in their mouths. The poison comes from glands on their shoulders, which look like American footballers’ shoulder pads. The quoll is threatened with extinction because it preys on cane toads. Even crocodiles are killed by eating cane toads. The poison is so strong, that pet dogs become ill just by drinking from water bowls which have been visited by toads.

A few Australian animals have, however, learned methods of safely butchering cane toads; they eat only the legs, or else carefully peel back the skin and eat the internal organs. Native Australian frogs do not eat the Lavender Beetle; cane toads do, and die.

Recently, an anti-toad vigilante group captured a 1 kg toad “the size of a small dog.” Astonishingly, it was male - female cane toads are larger.

Attempts to find a biological control to control this biological control have so far failed.The most basic method of toad control practiced in Australia is driving around, running them over in cars. Unfortunately, thick drivers have taken to running over giant frogs, on the assumption that, because they're big and amphibian, they must be cane toads. Conservationists are worried that native frogs, already under attack from cane toads, may now be under threat from anti-cane toad motorists.

More methodically, "Toad Busters" regularly raid waterholes where the toads are known to gather, dazzle them with bright lights, and capture as many as possible. They are then killed with carbon dioxide gas, deep frozen, and finally turned into fertilizer. Unfortunately, the fertilizer (ToadJus) can have one minor drawback: spontaneously exploding in storage.

A study suggests that disco lights can be used by trappers to attract cane toads. They seem to be drawn to “black light blue,” which is usually found in nightclubs. Red and blue flashing lights don’t have the same effect.

In Florida - another site where they were introduced as biological pest control - the officially recommended method of “humanely” destroying cane toads is to put them in a plastic bag in the freezer for three days, and then bury their carcasses.

It’s said - though dismissed by most experts - that people can get high by licking cane toads. There have also been reports of dogs becoming addicted to hallucinogenic bufo toxin; an Australian vet says “They get a smile on their face and look like they are going to wander off into the sunset."

NB: Some scientists and ecologists believe that the whole “cane toads are destroying Australia” story is exaggerated, and based on miniscule data and mass hysteria.
They argue that more and more native species are learning to avoid poisonous toads, and that "No species is known to have gone extinct because of cane toad." This argument is also heard in Florida, where many gardeners welcome the toads as champion pest-eaters.

And the toads do have their uses: it’s been found that mosquitoes hatched in water used by cane toad tadpoles are smaller, and have lower survival rates, than normal. Medical researchers have found chemicals in the toads which are similar to those used to treat heart disease in both Western and traditional Chinese medicine.

Meanwhile, the cane beetle exists in Australia in greater numbers than before the introduction of the cane toad.


Links: Fertiliser

314458.  Fri Apr 11, 2008 6:46 am Reply with quote

Flash wrote:
You can't help but read this:
and so their Creator has not exerted his powers to make many of them

as tongue in cheek, but I suppose he was actually being quite straightforward.

Yes, I think so - though, having said that, it must often be impossible to judge from one era to another, mustn't it? Too much of the context simply doesn’t survive.

314464.  Fri Apr 11, 2008 6:56 am Reply with quote

The Florida Department of Agriculture Bulletin no 56, published in 1952, entitled “Bullfrog-farming and frogging in Florida,” contained 50 recipes for bullfrogs, including:

Bullfrog Salad
Bullfrog Pot Pie
Bullfrog a la King
Bullfrog Short Cakes
Bullfrog Omelet
Bullfrog Clubhouse Sandwich
French Toasted Bullfrog Meat.

S: “Frogs” by David Badger (Voyageur Press, 1995).

I don’t know why, but Bullfrog Salad sounds the worst to me. This is the bullfrog in question:

Imagine that with a couple of radishes, and a light vinaigrette.

Links: Food, Farming. And probably Farting, too.

314467.  Fri Apr 11, 2008 6:58 am Reply with quote

Remembering last year’s Elephant in the Room, I keep thinking of a Frog in the Throat - when panellists think they've spotted it, they have to attract the chairman’s attention by coughing, discreetly.

314477.  Fri Apr 11, 2008 7:11 am Reply with quote

Following the Gold Rush, Californians “tired of their state’s international reputation for ruggedness and violence,” and wanted people to see them in a more sophisticated light. So, they adopted everything French, in fashion and cuisine.

The result was that the Californian red-legged frog became endangered, due to being eaten. The Californians then imported bullfrogs to eat - and sadly, the bullfrogs also ate the red-legged frogs.

Meanwhile, in “the American South,” people were eating not only bullfrogs but “pig frogs” - which, if anything, sound even nicer.

S: “Frogs” by David Badger (Voyageur Press, 1995).

Links: Food, France.

314493.  Fri Apr 11, 2008 7:37 am Reply with quote

Frogs have traditionally been used to forecast the weather. In Germany, for instance, a European Tree Frog is kept in a glass jar, with a pool of water and a little ladder. When he climbs the ladder, the weather will improve; when he climbs to the very top, very fine weather is coming; when he stays in the water, he’s predicting bad weather.

S: “Frogs” by David Badger (Voyageur Press, 1995).

Links: Forecasting.

314495.  Fri Apr 11, 2008 7:45 am Reply with quote

Only one species of frog is thought to drink: Phyllomedusa sauvagei, a South American tree frog, may drink (no-one’s sure) by allowing drops of water to roll into its mouth. All other species take in all their water through their permeable skin; they never drink.

That’s why frogs and toads spend so much time squatting in the shallow of pools.

S: “Frogs” by David Badger (Voyageur Press, 1995).

Now, if this is true of newts, too, we’ve got a question ... “How much does a newt drink?” I’ll have a look ...

314515.  Fri Apr 11, 2008 8:29 am Reply with quote

Just filling in while he's away: in Montserrat they have an edible frog called the "mountain chicken".


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