Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid | AspenTimes.com

Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid

Todd Hartley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Some of you may be aware that for a few years now scientists have been warning us that frog populations are dying off around the globe, threatening a full one-third of amphibian species with extinction. Furthermore, these scientists claim, many of the frogs that are surviving are being born with grotesque deformities due to pesticides and other pollutants that are fouling up our waterways.

This is sobering stuff, to say the least. Try to imagine a world without frogs. Billions of mosquitoes and other flying pests would go uneaten. Ponds would be eerily silent on warm summer evenings. Cannibals would have no way of poisoning their blow darts, and worst of all, Kellogg’s Sugar Smacks would have no pitchman if Dig’em bit the dust. I don’t know about you, but that’s a world I don’t think I want to live in.

Many of the reports of deformities claim that frogs the world over are being born with extra legs, which may sound like a good thing to French and southeast Asian gourmets, but to the rest of us it seems pretty dang creepy. You may disagree, but I prefer my amphibians with a maximum of four limbs.

Some of the deformed frogs, however, have been spotted with only one or even zero hind legs, and this has the gourmets and the scientists really steamed. Naturally, the blame has fallen squarely on the shoulders of global warming, which provides a convenient scapegoat for most every ailment afflicting the planet these days. The logic goes something like this: The world is warming up, and frogs are being born deformed, ergo warm weather is the cause of the deformities.

That seemed to make enough sense to most people, the majority of whom were hoping global warming was to blame, but a couple of scientists decided to actually put the theory to the test and determine if it was, in fact, true. I’m not sure when scientists decided that doing experiments and recording their data was a good idea, but I don’t think it will last.

The results of the research conducted by a joint team of American and British scientists were released last week, and their conclusion was more shocking than anyone might have imagined. The frogs, it turns out, were reaching maturity with one or no hind legs because their limbs were being bitten off by dragonfly larvae while the frogs were in their tadpole phase.

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No global warming. No mysterious parasites. No chemical pollution. No harmful ultraviolet radiation due to the depleted ozone layer. Just a big, voracious bug with a nasty set of mandibles and an appetite for French delicacies.

The solution to this problem, then, seems rather obvious: Let’s just give the dragonfly larvae chicken legs instead. We already know they’ll like the taste, and chances are they won’t notice the difference anyway. I would, because I have a very sophisticated palate, but it’s probably not that hard to fool a newborn insect.

However, that doesn’t solve the problem of frogs going extinct. Taking the dragonfly larvae out of the equation may save the frogs from having their legs bitten off, but it does nothing to address the disturbing fact that frogs are still dying off everywhere. This phenomenon is well documented, and, as you can imagine, global warming is once again being cited as the cause. Never mind that no one has shown a conclusive link between elevated temperatures and declining frog populations. Global warming must be to blame, because that’s what you’re supposed to be scared of these days.

I would like to propose a different theory regarding the disappearing frogs, though, if I might be so bold: It’s my contention that maybe, just maybe, the frogs are dying off, like so many other animal species around the world, because humans are killing them. I know that sounds far-fetched, but just hear me out before you dismiss my ideas as so much hokum.

In a study released back in January and cited in a BBC News story, it was revealed that up to 1 billion frogs are harvested from the wild each year for human consumption. I know that’s a piddling amount, but if you eat that many frogs every year, eventually you could put a little bit of a dent in their population. I mean, hell, if we ate 1 billion of practically any other animal species, they’d be extinct in a few months.

No? OK, you’re right. It’s global warming’s fault.

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