Frog Fodder For Thought

People have been eating frogs for thousands of years and in France the estimated annual consumption is between 6 and 8 million lbs! I don’t want to be a hypocrite and say its ok to eat chickens but not ok to eat frogs because who am I to decide which animals deserve to live and which ones deserve to be eaten! However, I do eat chicken (and steak and lamb) but I won’t eat frogs. I can’t eat frogs because I am the proud owner of a California Pacific Tree Frog, AKA Hylla Regilla, AKA Pacific Chorus frog named Sawyer. I have had Sawyer for two years and his quiet but meaningful existence has inspired me to share a few words on their significance and impact on this planet.

 

Frogs are of course part of our food chain, especially when sautéed in butter, battered and deep fried, or served Cajun style! However, more important then providing gourmet treats for us, frogs are a critical part of our delicate ecological food process that involves big creatures eating smaller creatures and the smaller creatures eating even smaller ones. While the frogs feed on algae, plants, and insects, they are the food source for birds, snakes and alligators. Take the frog out of the system and the end result can be disastrous. For example, a single African dwarf puddle frog, Phrynobatrachus, eats over 100 mosquitoes a night and saves the agricultural industry millions of dollars a year on pesticides! They are essentially free fly paper. The California red-legged frog Rana aurora draytonii was once so widespread that it was actually a major food source in northern California. During the second half of the 19th century Americans started moving west in search of gold. The gold seekers needed to eat and worked their way through about 80,000 frog legs each year. The red-legged frog was nearly driven to extinction and in 1996 it was placed on the U.S. Endangered Species List.

 

Frogs are constantly being researched because they produce all these naturally occurring compounds that allow it to have all of these great life-adapting qualities. The tire industry has studied their sticky toes for biological inspiration in traction research. Scientists are exploring the ability of the African Claw Frog Xenopus Laevis to produce a white substance on their skin in response to inflicted wounds that is filled with antibiotic peptides that prevent the frog from becoming infected. This “Frog Band-Aid” had lead to the discovery of new antibacterial drugs. Frogs are also environmental indicators and if we start to see frog populations dying off, that should serve as a warning to get to the root cause before other beings are affected as well.

 

A few years ago I found a tiny California Pacific Tree Frog sitting in a box of unwashed lettuce that was about to be cleaned and turned into salads for 300 passengers on an international flight to Germany. It was the middle of winter and I didn’t know where he came from or even how old he was but he came home with me and now lives a life of luxury. He burrows in soft mossy grass, soaks in a clean water bath, sits under special timed UV lamps and is fed calcium and vitamin dusted crickets. In return he stays alive, appears healthy and will sometimes keep me up with non-stop croaking at 2AM.

 

About Rachel Zemser