Frog in the coalmine

September 12, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

My wife was alarmed when she noticed this Pickerel Frog trying to swim in a small pool of water that had gathered in a tarp. The frog, she told me, was just paddling around in circles and appeared to be injured. When I looked at it, the problem seemed more like an in-born defect than an unfortunate encounter with, say, a predator like a snake or, perhaps, one of our cats. The frog's head and neck were canted at an odd angle, and it clearly couldn't hop nor swim in a straight line. I couldn't imagine how it had been able to feed itself, given the deformity, but it had somehow managed to capture and ingest enough protein to make it to this point. Earlier in the year, I'd found a Spotted Salamander with an extra leg, so I wondered whether this one was another example of something in the environment that was harming amphibians. But two out of perhaps hundreds, maybe even thousands, is a pretty low percentage and may simply reflect a birth defect baseline or, simply, just bad developmental luck. Still, the right-leaning Pickerel Frog was a worrisome sight—and one that definitely merited further attention.


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