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Devin Edmonds, USGS via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Devin Edmonds, USGS via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Good News: One Endangered Frog Species Is Bouncing Back

Devin Edmonds, USGS via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Devin Edmonds, USGS via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

It’s always nice to be able to deliver good amphibian news. The latest: after decades of decline, numbers of Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frogs (Rana sierrae) are on the rise in Yosemite National Park. A report on the frogs’ return was published today, October 3, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

One hundred years ago, California’s Sierra Nevada mountains croaked with yellow-legged frogs. R. sierrae was one of the most abundant species around. Then came the habitat destruction. People began stocking naturally fish-less local lakes with non-native fish like trout, which feed on amphibian eggs, tadpoles, and even full-grown frogs.

After that came the fungus. Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd, is a parasitic chytrid fungus that gets into frog skin and causes it to thicken. This might sound like a good thing, but frogs are amphibians. They take in air, water, and nutrients through their porous skin. When that skin ceases to be porous, the resulting lack of oxygen and chemical imbalances can stop their hearts from beating.

Mention Bd to any herpetologist if you want to see them shudder. The teeny-tiny fungus has wreaked havoc on amphibian species the world over and is believed to be responsible for the decline or extinction of hundreds of species to date. And it only continues to spread.

But the power of Bd’s scythe depends on the species it infects. Some frogs, including the American bullfrog and the lowland leopard frog have evolved a resistance to the pathogen, and it seems R. sierrae may have done the same. In the early waves of chytrid infestation, many frogs fell to the fungus, but others were naturally resistant. In the aftermath, the survivors mated, creating a small but relatively hardy new community in the middle of Bd territory.

Still, even with this toughness, by 1996 more than 93 percent of yellow-legged frogs had vanished from their habitat [PDF]. Things were not looking so good for R. sierrae. But how bad were they, exactly?

To find out, researchers analyzed data from more than 7000 frog population surveys conducted across Yosemite National Park between 1993 and 2012. Yosemite comprises 13 percent of the frog’s total range.

To their delight, the scientists found that the frogs were, if not completely rebounding, at least hopping back from the brink a bit. Within the 20-year study period, R. sierrae populations had increased sevenfold.

What happened? The study authors aren’t completely sure, but the frogs’ resistance to Bd certainly didn’t hurt. Another big change: people finally stopped putting frog-gobbling non-native fish in the dang waterways.

In recent years, habitat loss and chytrid fungus have made the decimation of Earth’s amphibians seem inevitable. But if R. sierrae is any indication, the authors write, "some amphibians may be more resilient than is assumed, and with appropriate management, declines of such species may be reversible."

Woo! 

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Animals
The Simple Way to Protect Your Dog From Dangerous Rock Salt
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iStock

Winter can be a tough time for dogs. The cold weather usually means there are fewer opportunities for walks and more embarrassing accessories for them to wear. But the biggest threat to canines this time of year is one pet owners may not notice: the dangerous rock salt coating the streets and sidewalks. If you live someplace where this is a problem, here are the steps you need to take to keep your pooch safe until the weather warms up, according to Life Hacker.

Rock salt poses two major hazards to pets: damage to their feet and poisoning from ingestion. The first is the one most pet owners are aware of. Not only do large grains of salt hurt when they get stuck in a dog’s paws, but they can also lead to frostbite and chemical burns due to the de-icing process at work. The easiest way to prevent this is by covering your dog’s paws before taking them outside. Dog booties get the job done, as do protective balms and waxes that can be applied directly to their pads.

The second danger is a little harder to anticipate. The only way you can stop your dog from eating rock salt from the ground is to keep a close eye on them. Does your dog seem a little too interested in a puddle or a mound of snow? Encourage them to move on before they have a chance to take a lick.

If, for some reason, you forget to follow the steps above and your pet has a bad encounter with some winter salt, don’t panic. For salty feet, soak your dog's paws in warm water once you get inside to wash away any remaining grit. If your dog exhibits symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and disorientation and you suspect they’ve ingested rock salt, contact your vet right away.

Even with the proper protection, winter can still create an unsafe environment for dogs. Check out this handy chart to determine when it’s too cold to take them for a walk.

[h/t Life Hacker]

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© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
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Animals
Boston's Museum of Fine Arts Hires Puppy to Sniff Out Art-Munching Bugs
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Some dogs are qualified to work at hospitals, fire departments, and airports, but one place you don’t normally see a pooch is in the halls of a fine art museum. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is changing that: As The Boston Globe reports, a young Weimaraner named Riley is the institution’s newest volunteer.

Even without a background in art restoration, Riley will be essential in maintaining the quality of the museum's masterpieces. His job is to sniff out the wood- and canvas-munching pests lurking in the museum’s collection. During the next few months, Riley will be trained to identify the scents of bugs that pose the biggest threat to the museum’s paintings and other artifacts. (Moths, termites, and beetles are some of the worst offenders.)

Some infestations can be spotted with the naked eye, but when that's impossible, the museum staff will rely on Riley to draw attention to the problem after inspecting an object. From there, staff members can examine the piece more closely and pinpoint the source before it spreads.

Riley is just one additional resource for the MFA’s existing pest control program. As far as the museum knows, it's rare for institutions facing similar problems to hire canine help. If the experiment is successful, bug-sniffing dogs may become a common sight in art museums around the world.

[h/t The Boston Globe]

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