Why Care About Amphibian Population Decline and Malformations?

Grade Levels: 5 - 12


Students will understand several arguments why preservation of wildlife is important.


  1. View the background information on amphibian population declines and malformed amphibians.

  2. Read your students the following quotes:

    • "When extinctions occur among species whose roots on this planet surpass ours by millions of years, we should be listening to what they have to say." – scientist, North American Amphibian Monitoring Program

    • "What's driving this whole issue is not deformed frogs. It's the potential for effects on human health." – toxicologist, Minnesota Department of Health

    Do your students agree with the statements from the scientists? What do they think are important reasons for preserving frogs and other amphibians.?

  3. Next, have your students brainstorm arguments for the preservation of endangered animals. Some reasons they may come up with are summarized below.

  4. Have your students discuss or write an essay about the ethical issues related to amphibian malformations.

Reasons for Protecting Amphibians

Amphibians have a lot to teach us about science and biology – They are great examples of evolutionary success over a long period of time. They have thrived through 350 million years of dinosaurs, meteors, and humans. They have evolved fascinating adaptations to a wide range of environments, including oceans, deserts, ponds, and forests. They have efficient metabolisms. For example, about 95 percent of what a salamander eats becomes energy or gets stored as fat.

Amphibians play important roles in ecosystems – They are very abundant and often dominate ecosystems in terms of numbers and total weight, particularly in wetland and forest ecosystems. They are also integral parts of food webs. Amphibians are popular food items for many predators and important predators themselves.

Amphibians may be a measure of the health of the environment – It is possible that amphibian declines are a response to environmental pollution and degradation. Thus, amphibians may be showing us how our activities affect our shared biosphere.

Amphibians contain chemicals that may benefit humans – Amphibians have foul-tasting chemicals in their skin and glands that protect them from predators. Some of these chemicals can be used in medicine as, for example, heart stimulants, painkillers, and organ glues.

Amphibians can be used to control insect pests – In Australia, a tree frog is used to control insects.

Amphibians are fascinating and beautiful creatures – Many amphibians, such as tree and poison dart frogs, are beautiful beyond description. Many others are fascinating to children and adults. This fascination is illustrated by the role amphibians have played in literature, including children's stories, myths, the Bible, the Koran, and the works of Shakespeare.

Excerpted from Hands-On Herpetology.

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