Tens of thousands of “scrotum” frogs are turning up dead at Lake Titicaca in Peru. International wildlife experts are currently identifying the exact cause of death, but environmental pollution is likely to blame.
The loose-skinned, unfortunately named frog is also called the Titicaca water frog. Social media has been delighted by the news of scrotum frogs living in Lake Titicaca.
Sure. 10,000 scrotum frogs die near #Titicaca and it makes the news. But when's the last time anyone could even find the clitoris frog?— Fourth Brass Monkey (@JLCleaves) October 19, 2016
But jokes aside, the scrotum frog was critically endangered prior to this mass croakage.
It’s been a bad time for endangered frogs. Toughie, the Rabbs’ fringe-limbed tree frog, died last month. As the last of his kind, his death sent the species into extinction. According to the latest research, it’s estimated that 3% of all frog species have gone extinct since the 1970s. If this trend continues, we can expect that figure to jump to 7% over the next century.
Why We Need Frogs
Frogs, like bees, are also known as ecosystem canaries. In the mining days, canaries went into mine shafts as an avian test pilot. If poisonous gases began to fill the mine, the canary would die first, alerting the miners of danger. In ecology, when certain species of animals begin to die en masse, it should alert us that our environment is in critical condition.
The current mass extinction of animals includes amphibians, bees, and bats. The bat population has experienced dramatics losses since 2012, with an estimated 90% of affected bats dying of white nose syndrome. Scientists have already dubbed the current biodiversity crisis as the sixth mass extinction.
According to a study published by Science Advances, "Recent extinction rates are unprecedented in human history and highly unusual in Earth's history. Our global society has started to destroy species of other organisms at an accelerating rate, initiating a mass extinction episode unparalleled for 65 million years."
Pollution In Lake Titicaca
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species states that the scrotum frog population has fallen by 80% in three generations. Wildlife experts who have been studying the scrotum frog are confident in their predictions of what caused nearly 10,000 frog deaths (and counting).
Roberto Elias, a program manager at the Denver Zoo who has been studying the scrotum frog for over five years, told The Guardian that he believed only toxins could be responsible for such high casualties in a short span of time. Local mining has polluted Lake Titicaca, and previous studies indicated that high amounts of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury, arsenic, iron, and zinc were found in the water. As a final nail in the coffin, the lake was also under siege from raw sewage due to lack of sewage treatment plants in the area.
Toxicology reports haven’t directly confirmed that pollution was responsible. But it seems that while we continue to wreak havoc on the environment, our eco-canaries will continue to die. When they are gone, we might be next.