Eastern Banjo Frog (Limnodynastes dumerilii), Image: Jodi Rowley © Australian Museum
Australia has more than 240 native species know to date (2021) and a lot of species are discovered every year around the world, so that number changes quickly! Do you know why frogs are so important for ecosystems?
1. Frogs are great ecosystems indicators
Frogs have a permeable skin which allows them to breath and drink. Their skin therefore easily absorbs what is in the environment, including pollutants. Frogs also live both in the water and on the land, which exposes them to different environments. Because of these two traits, frogs are often the first ones to respond to environmental change (pollution, climate or habit change) and scientists will often look at frog populations to evaluate how healthy an environment is. This is why frogs are sometimes referred as the “canary in the coal mine”.
Frogs have been roaming the Earth for well over than 200 million years now (yes, as long as dinosaurs!). With a lot of (known) species now being at the verge of extinction, it is a good reminder that the environment could use some extra care… if you were not convinced already!
2. Frogs and tadpoles play an important role in the food chain
Throughout their lives, frogs play an important role in the food chain, both as prey and predators. Tadpoles feed on algae; this helps keep the water clean and the algae under control. They also compete with mosquito larvae in ponds which helps control mosquito populations. Once adults, frogs also consume enormous quantities of insects (including mosquitos and pest species). And of course, both tadpoles and fully-grown frogs are tasty treats for a lot of animals like fishes, snakes or birds. The disappearance of frogs would have a big impact on the food web with cascading effects throughout the entire ecosystem.
3. What about human health?
We already mentioned than frogs help regulating the mosquito populations (that are annoying at best, or transmitting diseases at worst)… Frogs also have a cocktail of chemical compounds on their skin to protect them. These compounds have potential to improve human health through their use as pharmaceuticals. Quite a few Nobel Prized in Physiology and Medicine have resulted from investigations using frogs.
Now this is not supported by serious studies… but I would argue that frogs also contribute to well-being through their beautiful addition to the “auditory landscape”. How lovely and relaxing is their chorus? Frogs were the first land animals with vocal cords, and they sure know how to use them!