Now it’s the frogs affected by climate change again

From the  Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute  what seems like a repeat claim. Readers may recall that climate change was once before blamed for frog mortality and mutation only to discover through later research it wasn’t connected at all.

Climate change may alter amphibian evolution

This shows pantless tree frog embryos within the eggs on a leaf surface. The embryos die within a day if there is no rain to moisten the egg mass.

Most of the more than 6,000 species of frogs in the world lay their eggs in water. But many tropical frogs lay their eggs out of water. This behavior protects the eggs from aquatic predators, such as fish and tadpoles, but also increases their risk of drying out. Justin Touchon, post-doctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, discovered that climate change in Panama may be altering frogs’ course of evolution.

By analyzing long-term rainfall data collected by the Panama Canal Authority, Touchon discovered that rainfall patterns are changing just as climate-change models predict.

“Over the past four decades, rainfall has become more sporadic during the wet season,” said Touchon. “The number of rainy days decreased, and the number of gaps between storms increased.”

The eggs of the pantless treefrog, Dendropsophus ebraccatus, are extremely susceptible to drying. The embryos die within a day when there is no rain. Heavy rains trigger breeding, so as storms become sporadic, the chance of rain within a day of being laid decrease and so does egg survival.

This is the pantless tree frogs, Dendropsophus ebraccatus, in amplexus. The female, underneath the male, is laying eggs in a jelly-like matrix. This species can lay its eggs either in water or out of water. Credit: Justin Touchon

As weather patterns have changed, the advantage of laying eggs out of water has decreased, not only for pantless treefrogs but potentially for many species. “Pantless treefrogs can switch between laying eggs in water or on leaves, so they may weather the changes we are seeing in rainfall better than other species that have lost the ability to lay eggs in water,” said Touchon. “Being flexible in where they put their eggs gives them more options and allows them to make decisions in a given habitat that will increase the survival of their offspring.”

###

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, headquartered in Panama City, Panama, is a unit of the Smithsonian Institution. The Institute furthers the understanding of tropical nature and its importance to human welfare, trains students to conduct research in the tropics and promotes conservation by increasing public awareness of the beauty and importance of tropical ecosystems. Website: www.stri.si.edu.

Touchon J.C. 2012 A treefrog with reproductive mode plasticity reveals a changing balance of selection for non-aquatic egg-laying. The American Naturalist, online: doi:10.5061/dryad.8j1hb

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42 Responses to Now it’s the frogs affected by climate change again

  1. DesertYote says:

    Were’s the science?.

  2. nickleaton says:

    Follow the money.

    I want to investigate frogs.

    There’s no money for it.

    I want to investigate frogs and the impact of GW on frogs.

    Here, we’ve lots of money for Global Warming.

  3. Although global warming hasn’t as yet happened the list of things affected by anticipation of the warming is REALLY extensive. I highly recommend people familiarize themselves with this list of problems created by the anticipation. http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/warmlist.htm.

  4. beng says:

    I guess there’s no climate-change here in the mid-Appalachians — the local tree-frog population has been booming. Over a few yrs they’ve spread from a small, local patch upslope to all around my lot. They don’t have to be particularly close to water except to mate. During mid-summer a large rain-puddle in the road-ditch attracted dozens (very loud at night) & a week later there were hundreds of tadpoles in it. Adults can climb straight up your shirt w/sticky pads on their feet.

  5. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068615/

    “Cold Green Skin, Against Soft Warm Flesh. A Croak. A Scream.”

    FROGS! 1972 with Ray Milland and Sam Elliot.

    A movie ahead of its time!

    – MJM

  6. Admad says:

    Don’t suppose the rainfall changes have anything to do with deforestation? Just sayin’

  7. Alan the Brit says:

    Please forgive an ignorant engineer, but I thought one of the many things Models had real issues with was accurate regional prediction of weather/climate, eg changing rainfall patterns! Perhaps I missed something whilst I slept-read through this.

  8. Jit says:

    Admad: beat me to it. Whether or not deforestation is affecting rainfall patterns, it isn’t politically correct to say that it might be.

  9. gator69 says:

    And massive floods would flush the eggs downstream and kill many, so what.

  10. SC-SlyWolf says:

    This story seems like a near perfect lead-in to an explanation of how evolution works.

  11. Katherine says:

    By analyzing long-term rainfall data collected by the Panama Canal Authority, Touchon discovered that rainfall patterns are changing just as climate-change models predict.

    Which one among the vast array of models predicted that? Does this mean that model is validated? Or did they just going by hearsay since Touchon doesn’t cite a particular model?

  12. DJ says:

    “… and the number of gaps between storms increased.”

    Did I miss something? The Warmistas have been telling us that the FREQUENCY and intensity of storms would increase with global warming/climate change!! The number of gaps must decrease with increased frequency…. unless all my math classes were a waste…

  13. davidmhoffer says:

    Pantless treefrogs can switch between laying eggs in water or on leaves, so they may weather the changes we are seeing in rainfall
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    So they evolved over millions of years to have two possible egg laying strategies, one of which protects them from short rainy periods. Gee, either they evolved due to experiencing in the past the same conditions we see now, or they evolved in anticipation of Henry Ford being born.

    If the latter, very clever these pantless tree frogs.

  14. Sparks says:

    Amphibian fossils have been found dating back as far as the Devonian Era, some 400 to 360 million years ago. The earliest known frog appeared about 190 million years ago, during what is known as the late Jurassic period.
    So my question is, If there is empirical evidence that frogs are very adaptable creatures and have been around for millions of years, and have survived major climate changes in the past while millions of other creatures died out, then why produce a scientific paper suggesting that models predict the continuation of this process?

    This appears to be nothing more than a disingenuous attempt at validating the usefulness of a climate model, which, could then be open to abuse and used for dishonest data interpretations.

  15. John another says:

    Gee… And here I had always assumed natural Climate Change affects all evolution.

  16. Oso Politico says:

    Any negative changes in rainfall in Panama would obviously affect the canal. I just took a quick google to see if I could find out if the canal authorities are worried. Obviously not, as they as pressing ahead with the expansion project. Here is an interesting link: http://www.onewater.org/stories/story/central_america

    Here in Costa Rica, on the Pacific side, the rainy season has been late in coming, but now it is raining cats and dogs, and maybe frogs, too.

  17. markopanama says:

    Well, living here in the mountains of Panama, I can attest to the adaptability of the local frogs.. They show up living on top of the car, in the mailbox, and even in the BBQ. Given that except for the three months or so of “dry season” it rains here virtually every day, 200-300 inches per year, the difference between being in the water and out is really just semantic.

    Also, it would be interesting to see their data. First, there is at best 100 years of reliable observations, dating from around 1900-1914, when the canal opened. I can discount the proir twenty or so years of French mucking about, before the Americans arrived to build a proper canal.

    Second, Panama does not experience “storms” in the normal sense of cyclonic storms that form and pass through. There has never been a hurricane in Panama, for example. Life here is governed by the Intertropical Convergence Zone (no, not the location of a new Burning Man), which brings thunderstorms either from the Pacific or Caribbean. Exactly where you are in Panama makes a huge difference in your weather. Even my friend’s station two miles away, produces vastly different rainfall records from mine. Outside of the Canal Zone microclimate, you can count on one hand the number of serious weather stations in the rest of the country, none of which will have records going back more than ten or so years.

    The Smithsonian research station is located towards the end of the mile long man-made causeway that defines the entrance to the Panama Canal. It is located next to a very good fish restaurant. Both are interesting to visit, for very different reasons.

  18. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    Clearly this article provides evidence of the further decline of morality in society as it overwhelmingly preferentially gives dire warnings based on a shadow of a possible threat and oppression of the pantless while giving no mention of the incredible challenges to procreation faced by the panted frogs, when it is clearly obvious the pantless already have a great advantage in reproductive activities.

    Perverts.

  19. MarkW says:

    As predicted by the models?
    Which models? They all predict something different.

  20. Matt says:

    “Readers may recall that climate change was once before blamed for frog mortality and mutation only to discover through later research it wasn’t connected at all.”

    That was a fungal infection that was being spread by the researchers themselves. Since the fungus was being spread by climate change researchers it was sort of connected to climate change. :-)

  21. Ian_UK says:

    Funnily enough, I was walking round a local reservoir in S Yorkshire, UK a few days ago and came across a tiny frog trying to cross the path. Naturally, I helped it on its way, at the same time wondering how it was going to survive. Young frogs this late? Must be climate change, surely.

  22. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    The amazing thing about this article?

    It’s been posted this long and the pedantic grammar police haven’t pointed out the title should be “Now it’s…” (contraction) instead of “Now its…” (possessive).

    Speaking about the unprecedented…

    [Fixed, thanx. — mod.]

  23. Since being pedantic is apparently allowed, please let me note that 190 mya is very much Early, not Late Jurassic. Crown group frogs are known from the Middle Jurassic & stem group, proto-frogs from the Early Triassic.

    Clearly, frogs have adapted to & survived all the climate change that the planet could throw at them in the past almost 250 million years, which is a lot. The enormous cooling in the past 50 million years (with a few counter-trend phases) has probably offered them more challenges than the very recent warming (last 10,000 years, with cooling for past 3000).

  24. stephen richards says:

    We frogs are doing fine thank you. Here in sw france we have 25°C and beautiful sunshine.

  25. Sparks says:

    milodonharlani says:
    October 25, 2012 at 1:11 pm
    “Since being pedantic is apparently allowed, please let me note that 190 mya is very much Early, not Late Jurassic.”

    Amphibian fossils have been found dating back as far as the Devonian Era, some 400 to 360 million years ago, infers early proto-frogs and early ancestors of frogs.

    Please note; The earliest known frog appeared about 190 million years ago, during what is known as the late Jurassic period.

    The Jurassic period is divided into Early Jurassic, Middle, and Late Jurassic epochs.

    Upper/Late Jurassic
    Tithonian (150.8 ± 4.0 – 145.5 ± 4.0 Mya)
    Kimmeridgian (155.7 ± 4.0 – 150.8 ± 4.0 Mya)
    Oxfordian (161.2 ± 4.0 – 155.7 ± 4.0 Mya)
    Middle Jurassic
    Callovian (164.7 ± 4.0 – 161.2 ± 4.0 Mya)
    Bathonian (167.7 ± 3.5 – 164.7 ± 4.0 Mya)
    Bajocian (171.6 ± 3.0 – 167.7 ± 3.5 Mya)
    Aalenian (175.6 ± 2.0 – 171.6 ± 3.0 Mya)
    Lower/Early Jurassic
    Toarcian (183.0 ± 1.5 – 175.6 ± 2.0 Mya)
    Pliensbachian (189.6 ± 1.5 – 183.0 ± 1.5 Mya)
    Sinemurian (196.5 ± 1.0 – 189.6 ± 1.5 Mya)
    Hettangian (199.6 ± 0.6 – 196.5 ± 1.0 Mya)

    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jurassic

  26. D Böehm says:

    For those wondering about geological epochs, here is a good overview:

    http://www.climate4you.com/images/GeologicalTimeScale.gif

  27. Sparks says:

    Wikipedia has has their “Late Jurassic” and “Early Jurassic” epochs grammatically wrong (back to front) to what I was explaining, 150.8 ± 4.0 – 145.5 ± 4.0 Mya (Million Years Ago) is earlier than 199.6 ± 0.6 – 196.5 ± 1.0 Mya (Million Years Ago).

  28. Sparks says:

    @ D Böehm
    Nice chart.

    I was explaining the above using the timeline correctly from the present to the past i.e. Present —> Early in the past —> later in the past with the term “Million years ago” whereas other sources explain it from a point in the past to the present but use term “Million years ago”. Maybe I’m wrong but being meticulous/pedantic helps to gain a better understanding.

  29. Brian H says:

    stephen richards;
    You don’t gots a right and proper frog’s name. Please rectify, so as not to further confuse the befuddled. Or vice versa.

  30. michael hart says:

    Have the hot, panting frogs changed behaviour as to where they choose to lay their eggs? What fraction led to successful procreation? We are not told because, from the abstract, the questions appear not to have even been asked.

    So, umm, what was the question again?

    Eggs laid out of water will dry out, if it doesn’t rain. Yeah, some did! Check.
    Eggs laid in water might get eaten. Yeah, some did! Check.

    Next project: If it rains too much, will the fish flounder up out of the water and eat the eggs that were laid on land? Who knows? Cute frogs, though.

  31. It has recently been verified that frogs are reacting strongly to anthropogenic global warming by “plunking their magic twangers.” This act seems to provide them both satisfaction and protection, although it is common only among frogs over 50 years old. Rumors that there is a sexually questionable warmist researcher named Buffalo Bob or Bill or somesuch who derives pleasure from titillating these frogs are unfounded and possibly libelous. Please exercise care when discussing this subject in public fora.

    Thank you.

    H. D.

  32. M Courtney says:

    Local changes in rainfall affect amphibians behaviour and maybe even physiology over a few generations.
    That sounds like a big finding in the 19th century but now, well, I’ll not bother researching more deeply. It sounds reasonable.

  33. johanna says:

    Yet another dopey bit of Goldilocks ‘research’. The climate conditions for these frogs were perfect and static in just the spot the researchers happened to pick, until SUVs were invented. Or something like that.

  34. Harry Kal says:

    A lot of these frogspecies guard their eggs and wet them every other hour.
    So what ‘s the problem?

  35. catweazle666 says:

    I thought that’s what evolution was for….

  36. Tamara says:

    I wish he would give an example of those frog species that have “lost the ability to lay eggs in water”. I suspect that those species already have other adaptations to mitigate drying of the eggs. Frogs that lay eggs on land have developed some amazing parental care behaviors.

  37. ferd berple says:

    Climate change may alter amphibian evolution
    ============
    really, only “may”?

  38. beng says:

    ****
    markopanama says:
    October 25, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Given that except for the three months or so of “dry season” it rains here virtually every day, 200-300 inches per year
    ****

    I’d love to at least experience that kind of verdant rain-forest climate, but the endless humidity/sweating/wetness/mildew/fungi might wear one down. :) Escaping to a higher elevation would doubtless help….

  39. Laurie Bowen says:

    So? What’s new?

    Temperature of egg incubation determines sex in Alligator – Naturewww.nature.com/nature/journal/v296/n5860/abs/296850a0.html

  40. Gopal Panicker says:

    get those frogs some pants

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