Things are getting even worse for Minnesota frogs

Scientists have found another disease that's killing them.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

These are not good times for Minnesota's frogs and the news isn't getting any better. 

Besides the old standbys of pollution and habitat loss, the amphibians have also been threatened by two diseases fatal to them. 

Or it was two, until research published Tuesday said scientists have learned a third disease is killing them – and Minnesota is one of the states where it's caused a big die-off. 

The U.S. Geological Survey says frogs (and their cousins, salamanders) are among the most threatened groups of animals on the planet. Alarm bells about their shrinking numbers have been ringing for years and scientists with the USGS and other agencies are trying to learn what's behind it.

The new paper published in the journal Nature says a disease called SPI (it stands for severe Perkinsea infections) has caused frog die-offs in 10 states. It says five of those states, including Minnesota, have had really big ones – where 95 percent of the frogs in an area die. 

What is this disease?

The researchers say SPI is carried by a tiny parasite. In fact it's as small as they get, just one cell (it's a kind of protist called Perkinsea). 

And it actually kills them before they're even frogs, while they're still tadpoles. It causes their organs to fail and they never make it out of the tadpole stage to froghood.

The USGS shared this photo of a tadpole with the organ failure the disease causes. 

The researchers say SPI is serious enough that it can cause extinction of frogs in local areas. (The study does not mention where in Minnesota they found the 95 percent die-off.)

The scientists say they found the disease in 11 different kinds of frogs. They're not really sure how common it is because most frog researchers around the country have not been checking for it. That will change, though, now that this new study is out. 

Most of the states where SPI caused die-offs are on the Atlantic or Gulf coasts. But there were three exceptions: Minnesota, Oregon, and Alaska. 

SPI is not known to have any effect on people or their pets, Science Daily says

Why frogs matter

One of the really cool things about frogs is that they eat mosquitoes. They eat other stuff, too, but the lead author of the study published in Nature Tuesday, Marcos Isidoro Ayza, says pest control is one of their greatest values to people. 

They're also part of the food chain, so no frogs would mean less food for animals like herons, hawks, snakes, and big fish. 

Another reason scientists like them is that the frog population is a good measure of how healthy the environment is in the places where they live. "Like the proverbial canary in a coal mine," Isidoro Ayza says, "amphibians let us know when something in our environment is going awry."

Next Up

butcher and the boar

Butcher & the Boar makes comeback with new ownership

Local hospitality company Jester Concepts has bought the brand. The new location is still being determined.

Hy-Vee

Staff at Mankato Hy-Vee incorrectly diluted COVID vaccines for 62 patients

The retailer says that there is no reason for medical concern.

Screen Shot 2021-02-26 at 7.19.58 PM

Twin Cities man going to great lengths to find beloved dog, missing in northern MN

He's hoping drone operators can help him locate Rowdi, his yellow lab.

Hennepin County Government Center

Some Hennepin County Government Center services will be unavailable during Chauvin's trial

Access to the building will be limited during the trail, which begins March 8.

Street sweeper

Driver, 19, killed in collision with street sweeper

It happened Thursday evening near Thief River Falls.

famous dave's

Famous Dave's to launch its first 'line service' restaurant in the Twin Cities

The new model of restaurant will open in September in Coon Rapids.

State Capitol.

Minnesota's budget outlook improves, now projecting $1.6B surplus

The state was projecting a $1.3 billion deficit in November.

warroad ice road

2.5 mile skating path through Warroad was a hit, now there's an effort to keep it

The "Riverbender Crew" is hoping to buy new equipment to maintain the path this season, and for years to come.

Related

Nature's alarm clock failed this Duluth frog

A Duluth frog who woke up from an abbreviated hibernation was lucky to land at an animal rehab center

Nature's alarm clock failed this Duluth frog

A Duluth frog who woke up from an abbreviated hibernation was lucky to land at an animal rehab center

A wild turkey is the latest animal to be featured on Minnesota's specialty license plates

There's another option for Minnesota motorists looking to help conservation in the state.

A wild turkey is the latest animal to be featured on Minnesota's specialty license plates

There's another option for Minnesota motorists looking to help conservation in the state.

Minnesota's drug problem got even worse in 2016

Drug overdose deaths shot up last year, a rise driven by the use of dangerous opioids.

For part of Minnesota it's deer hunting season again

A special hunt in southeastern Minnesota is meant to help get rid of a deer disease before it spreads through the state