Now! What of a fourth F?

Flora. Fauna. Fungi. And now Frogs.

In Adelaide, World Frog Day was being celebrated. I decided to focus on these animals that tell us about the health of our waterways. ‘Habitat loss, climate change and pollution are large causes of declining frog populations around the world. Australia, like many other countries, has experienced dramatic declines in frog species with more than 40 Australian frog species threatened with extinction. Want to know more? Hop into our Envirodome tomorrow and learn more about these fascinating animals.’

Frogs are important indicators of the health of many ecosystems. Think of our rivers and lakes. How many are now polluted? What is the state of the rivers in Europe, in Africa, in Asia – I think of the Mekong – and the Americas? Australia has allowed its major eastern public waterway, the Murray-Darling, to be marketed for sale for licences! Irrigation upstream affects downstream. So, a major part of the waterway, the River Darling is dry in parts. Too many Murray cod are gone. Too little flows to the sea. Salinity will come further upriver. But, it is not only a decline in the voice of the frog in our rivers and lakes. Think of the decline in fish stocks in rivers and lakes. And in the oceans. Visit the blogs about the work of Dr Sylvia Earle. And the need for Marine Protected Areas and the need to check industrial fishing.

Children can’t vote. it is the parents, citizens in democracies, who vote. Children know the climate crises we are facing and march, ‘strike,’ to try to make us face it. They ask us to care about the future.

Too many of us were taught not to see connections, to think of subjects as ‘silos’. That blinkered approach has helped corporations that do not want us to make connections. They don’t want us to connect what they are selling with what is happening. That was true of tobacco companies and asbestos companies. Profit was everything. It is as true now of those selling artificial fertilisers, plastics, and those mining and selling fossil fuels. Fracking the land for LNG. Pesticides. Think of logging old forests!

I have chosen this article from 2018 in ‘Science made Simple’. Three years on, in Australia, I fear that too few care enough. It might be the same elsewhere. A Canadian Conservative Society has just said there is no climate crisis! And they live near the Arctic! The protection of Australia’s major eastern side public waterway, the Murray-Darling system has been hamstrung by major political decisions made without any thought of consequences down river. The efforts to keep water for the environment is bedevilled by narrow state-based political attitudes. The impact of upstream irrigation. Add that to the royalties they get from coal and LNG gas wells on agricultural land and in a forest in NSW and fracking in the NT.

Do you know what happens when we decrease the bio-diversity of our lands and oceans? Read about what happened in India in the 1980s. Add the impact of global warming into the mix of the indifference in too many governments. This article is comprehensive. Provided for students in the UK, we need it in Australia. Our environment and bio-diversity is under threat in Australia. We have no up-to-date national standards legislation, though we have the report by Graeme Samuels about what we need to do as a nation. The Coalition government intends to hand regulation ‘as a one-stop-shop’ to the States. And ‘one-stop-shop’ means market first! That’s trouble!

HomeCurriculumBiology › 3 Reasons Why Frogs Are So Important to the Ecosystem

3 Reasons Why Frogs Are So Important to the Ecosystem

December 13, 2018

by guest blogger Karin, who loves finding out animal facts! This is a UK production. You can find more animal facts here.

White lipped tree frog CC-SA Bignoter

‘From their sticky toes to their eyes that seem to pop, frogs have hopped into a central place in fairytales and science alike. Children are perpetually delighted by Kermit the Frog and scientists are still unlocking the secrets of these mysterious green amphibians. If you have ever caught a frog, you have probably been mesmerized by their almost otherworldly appearance. Frogs really are amazing animals – did you know that consisting of about 90% of the class of Amphibia, frogs are vital to a healthy and functioning ecosystem? Check out these 3 reasons why frogs are so important to the ecosystem.

1. Frogs Are an Indicator Species

How is a frog like a canary? This isn’t just a silly question. Historically, miners would take canaries and other birds into the mines with them. If there was poisonous gas in the underground tunnels, the canaries (unfortunately) would die, and the miners would know that they needed to leave the toxic tunnels right away. In a similar way, frogs act as a natural bioindicator, which means that they measure the health of the environment.

Because frogs are amphibians, they can live on both land and water. In fact, the word “amphibian” is Greek for “two lives.” Frogs also have very sensitive skin and pores, making them extra sensitive to the health of both land and in the water.

What is alarming is that frogs are increasingly showing signs of deformities and mutations, such as extra limbs, missing limbs, deformed tails, and missing eyes. Scientists have also discovered that frogs are dying off at an alarming rate. What is even more alarming is that frogs have been around for at least 250 million years, and amphibians have been around for over 350 million years. This means that frogs have lived through 3–THREE–different mass extinctions, including the one that killed all the dinosaurs. Despite living millions of years and surviving even the extinction of the dinosaurs, frogs are now dying off in record numbers. In fact, nearly ⅓ of amphibian species are threatened with extinction. They simply are unable to handle the current environmental stressors, which is a desperate signal that the earth needs help combating pollution and other environmental stressors. 

2. The Food Chain Would Crumble Without Frogs

Frogs go through several stages in their life cycle. At each cycle, frogs play a crucial role in the food chain, both as predator and prey. Specifically, as eggs, frogs provide food for spiders and wasps; and as tadpoles, they are food for shrimp dragonfly nymphs, and shrimp. As adult frogs, they provide valuable food for birds, lizards, snakes, monkeys, and more.

Additionally, frogs are a critical part of the food chain in more active ways as well. As tadpoles, they feed on algae, which helps filter and keep our water supplies clean. Full-grown frogs feed on insects, such as moths, grasshoppers, flies, crickets, mosquitoes, and spiders.

Female Mosquito Public Domain LadyofHats

Indeed, frogs help keep insects from wreaking havoc on crops. For example, in the 1980s, India exported large amounts of frogs to France as food, leading the population of frogs to drop dramatically. This led to an increase in insect population that decimated crops and fields. Realizing how crucial frogs were to a healthy ecosystem, the Indian government finally banned the export of frogs.

Frogs also help keep insects from spreading diseases, such as Zika, malaria, dengue, and more. Adult frogs eat mosquitoes and help keep the insect population under control. Importantly, tadpoles also eat many insect larvae that make their home in pools, puddles, ditches, swamps, and other water-filled containers. The death of frogs would send a catastrophic ripple through the ecosystem and compromise human health around the globe.

3. Frogs are Nature’s Medicine
Red-eyed tree frog CC-BY-SA Charles J Sharp

Researchers have found that frogs are important for various medicinal purposes. In fact, scientists have found over 200 beneficial alkaloids in amphibian skin. One of these can be used as a painkiller that is 200 times stronger than morphine and without morphine addictive qualities. Frog skin secretions can also be used as a powerful antibiotic, and some frogs produce peptides that can help heal cuts and bruises and can even heal organs after surgery. And that’s not all. Frog secretion can also provide treatment for heart attacks, depression, strokes, seizures, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. In Australia, the red eyed tree-frog and its relatives can even reduce compounds that scientist believe can prevent HIV.


Because frogs occupy the front lines of Earth’s ecosystems, they act as a lens to the ways we understand climate change, pollution, conservation, evolution and a host of other profoundly important issues. Beyond being bioindicators, frogs also act as a “conveyer belts” by transferring energy from invertebrates to predators higher up the food chain.  Frogs also control pests, provide medicines, and have a social value that inspires art and culture alike.  They are extraordinary animals that add not only diversity but also beauty to our Earth. Their disappearance would radically rewire ecosystems all over the Earth and change the way humans inhabit their many environments.’

 Author Profile: Karin holds a master’s degree in English and rhetoric and has been a university writing tutor and writing instructor for many years. She loves researching, reading, and writing for An admitted adrenaline junkie, she married her skydiving instructor and loves to go adventuring with him and their 4 kids.


Marent, Thomas. Frog: A Photographic Portrait. New York, NY: Penguin, 2008.

Rowley, Jodi, Dr. “Can Frogs Help Combat the Zika Virus?Australian Museum. February 23, 2016. Accessed: November 25, 2018.

Now, here is the voice of Mike Tyler, on the ABC Radio National’s Science Show. Professor Mike Tyler was at the University of Adelaide, Australia’s special ‘frog man’. He did so much to try to wake Australians to the often irreversible results of the destruction of habitat.

1 Aug 2020  This is the final of four excerpts from Mike Tyler’s broadcasts on The Science Show. Mike died in March 2020. Vale Mike Tyler.

Singing frogs bid farewell to Mike Tyler – The Science Show … › radionational › programs › sin…

2 thoughts on “Now! What of a fourth F?

  1. Thanks, Erica, for this alert — and for the links to learning more. I hope we can learn from frogs and save them — AND save so much more!


  2. Thank you JoAnne. In our urban societies we take so long to realise the cost to the environment of the loss of frogs.


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