Reviewed by Judy Kraus
Mystery and intrigue are woven into The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs. The golden frog is the national symbol of Panama, and its importance can be traced back to ancient times. The possible extinction of this species is a growing cultural concern as well as a disruption to the food web. Insects once devoured by this species are spreading disease and destroying crops.
An ongoing scientific investigation in Panama into the dwindling frog population is presented. The tale began 20 years ago when the presence of the tiny golden frog (which is 3.8 centimeters as an adult) was taken for granted. By 1996, though, scientists began to realize the golden frogs were disappearing. Methodical investigations conducted by biologists and frog researchers like Karen Lips and Edgardo Griffith were begun in earnest. Realizing frog voices were no longer penetrating the forests of Panama and bodies of dead frogs littered the forest floor, they started to collect the decomposing bodies to gather data. Initial findings by a pathologist identified unusual sacs under the frogs’ skin, but a cause of death could not be determined.
Scientists hypothesized that a changing habitat was causing the demise of the golden frog. Or, they thought, it might be pollution, or maybe climate change. As each hypothesis was considered and rejected, the scientific community returned to the clues contained in the bodies of the dead frogs. Through publication and communication of the findings, scientists were able to make connections among problems experienced by the golden frogs in Panama, those located in Australia, and even those in Washington, DC. The culprit, Chytridiomycota (a microscopic fungus), was identified by Joyce Longcore. Now scientists have new questions to answer in order to save the frogs from this serial killer!
The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs is an excellent portrayal of questioning, observing, hypothesizing, testing, collecting data, analyzing, and asking more questions. It embodies scientific inquiry and brings golden frogs to life for readers. The researchers’ quest to save these frogs continues. Few remain in the forests of Panama; most exist only in aquariums. Readers may become involved in the efforts to save frogs worldwide by following the tips for helping local frogs as well as investigating the global rescue efforts.
Review posted on 9/8/2011