Of Men and Deformed Frogs: A Journalist’s Lament

William Souder

in Amphibian Declines

Published by University of California Press

Published in print June 2005 | ISBN: 9780520235922
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520929432 | DOI:
Of Men and Deformed Frogs: A Journalist’s Lament

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In August 1995, a group of middle school students on a field trip in south-central Minnesota discovered malformed northern leopard frogs (Rana pipiens). Within a year, more than 200 outbreaks of malformed frogs had been recorded, from one end of the state to the other. Some three years earlier, similar deformities had also been found at multiple sites in Canada. Parasites may explain some, even many, of the deformities outbreaks. Something in the normal ecology of frog populations must. But there is clear and compelling evidence that this is not the whole story. The whole story remains a work in progress. Both scientists and journalists have made a bit of a mess of this story. Inference, which should be the tool that tightens the bolts on well-built experiments, has instead become a kind of blunt instrument with which researchers with competing views beat one another about the head and shoulders. It is no surprise that deformed frogs have been treated in the press as either a very big deal or no big deal at all.

Keywords: Minnesota; malformed frogs; northern leopard frogs; Rana pipiens; deformities; scientists; journalists; inference; deformed frogs

Chapter.  3768 words. 

Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences

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