A rare breed of frog with leopard-like markings and funny haunches — and absolutely no relevance to your everyday life, except that it's an L.A. native, and hey, neighbors look out for neighbors — was wiped of 1/3 of its entire population over the last couple weeks.

The Los Angeles Times reports that just over 100 of the 300 exotic Mountain Yellow-Legged Frogs in existence were rescued in 2009 from the ruthless path of the Station Fire, which tore through L.A.'s San Gabriel Mountains with no regard for little amphibious beings. (Thanks a lot, feds.) But for reasons unknown…

… to heartbroken caretakers at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, who were watching over the endangered fellows and gently encouraging them to mate within “captive breeding tanks,” all but two died this August after making the fragile metamorphosis from tadpole stage to frog stage.

Damn. Captive breeding tanks must be as bad as they sound. Though the Times claims that the Fresno Zoo is “highly regarded for amphibian husbandry,” no scientist can explain the mass summer genocide/suicide/implosion of L.A.'s yellow-legged ones. Still, the paper has its hypotheses:

In 2006, seven mountain yellow-legged frogs — found three years earlier in a shallow pool in the San Bernardino Mountains after a large brush fire — died at the San Diego Zoo. Studies showed those frogs died of the same type of fungal infection that is killing frogs around the world. …

“These frogs are very specific in their requirements. What works for one group may not work for another, which is why we have three zoos involved,” [U.S. Geological Survey ecologist Adam Backlin] said. “The problem is that zoos do not have the space, staff or the funds to keep many of these frogs, which need … almost constant attention.”

Their hero's journey, via the Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog Site (yes, really; to each his own):

The mountain yellow-legged frog is a complex of two species (Rana muscosa, Rana sierrae) that has existed in the mountains of California and adjacent Nevada for millions of years, moving up and down in elevation as glaciers repeatedly advanced and retreated. Over these thousands of centuries, the mountain yellow-legged frog has developed numerous adaptations that allow it to thrive in even seemingly inhospitable alpine lakes, habitats too cold for any other amphibian. Ironically, the same adaptations that served the mountain yellow-legged frog so well for millions of years have also made it extraordinarily vulnerable to the nonnative trout that were stocked into many of these habitats during the past century. …

Scientists interested in understanding the causes underlying the decline of the mountain yellow-legged frog have … focused their attention on four other factors: introduction of nonnative fishes, disease, contaminants, and elevated levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

In other words, global warming. What say you to that, SoCal rightbloggers? Is man's extermination of 105 endangered L.A. darlings just another joke of a conspiracy theory to you?



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