"A comprehensive guide to all 31 families of frogs. Spectacular full-color photographs... This book can be enjoyed by readers of all ages." -- Science News
Frogs and toads are one of nature's great animal success stories. They are also the "canary in the mine" for climate change. Renowned herpetologist Ellin Beltz paints a compelling picture of these small survivors.
Some of the features of Frogs are:
Frogs is a comprehensive and fascinating reference that is extremely useful for herpetologists and naturalists and informative for general readers.
Ellin Beltz is a biologist, herpetologist and author. She has taught at Northeastern Illinois University, the Morton Arboretum, Trinity Christian College and College of the Redwoods.
Why are humans fascinated by frogs? What is a frog but a little bundle of matter and energy? Is it perhaps that frogs look and act rather like people? They sing and cavort, court, mate and raise families all in plain view of the humans with whom they share their world.
Frogs let it all hang out. From their enthusiastic breeding assemblages to their long tongues, they let us see their every move -- even if we don't understand what we see.
Frogs teach us that the more we learn, the more we find out we need to know. Much of what we're learning about frogs directly relates to human physiology and habitat requirements. Perhaps the most important thing is that while there are limits within which individual organisms can function, as a group frogs exist to break their own rules.
One study logged over a thousand food items disappearing into a toad in one day, but others show that some frogs can go six months or more without eating in the hottest deserts. While most frogs prefer just about the same temperatures as people, others can freeze nearly solid and revive without damage in cold northerly climes. Some frogs nervously vanish at the slightest sound while others sit patiently for examination. And, as everyone knows, some frog species are disappearing while others extend their ranges worldwide.
Although each chapter has its own introduction, here are some frequently asked questions -- with answers -- that introduce the concepts of the book in a general manner.
Why study frogs by family?
Including live and fossil frogs, there are somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 species known, with more discovered every year as formerly remote jungles and rock outcrops are explored and studied. At a minimum, using family organization reduces the need for range maps and repetitive text.
Long ago, people discovered that it is easier to learn things by first seeing generalities and then becoming more and more specific. We study nature by dividing it into large groups by similarities and subdividing by differences. We recognize a large group of amphibians, divided into three groups: salamanders, caecilians and frogs. Within frogs are some 31 families, each one with its own set of characteristics, sometimes including habitat requirements, breeding patterns, behaviors and parenting methods.
How is this book different from a field guide?
Field guides provide a species-by-species account of every organism within their scope. At 4,000 to 5,000 species worldwide, a list of just the names of frog species, one to a line, could take a hundred pages of text!
Why include all the Latin names?
This book includes a list and discussion of frogs and toads by family. Some individual members of each family are discussed in detail and serve as representatives for their family in the text.
All the "difficult" Latin and Greek family names and species names have been included for several reasons:
1. Scientific names are used every day by people around the world in books and on the Internet.
How do you say the names?
To pronounce scientific names at least as well as anyone today, there are only three rules:
1. Look for familiar word parts that you know how to say. Words that begin with unusual consonants are from Greek. For example Xenopus ("alien foot") is easy for anyone who has ever used a famous brand of photocopier. Another Greek-influenced name was coined for Pseudacris treefrogs. Think "pseudonym" (false name) and say "Pseud-acris."
What do the names mean?
Many word parts are used over and over again for amphibians and are also used for other groups. You can often find these word parts in an unabridged dictionary. Examples of these include "Batrach" for frogs, "gloss" for tongue, "limno' for marsh, and "dactyls" for fingers.
Some names were formed from sounds made by the frog. For example, "Ra-na" is the sound made by a southern European frog, so the Romans used Rana for all frogs. Also, the coqui frog's name reflects its loud "co-kee" cry.
Why don't you say "frogs and toads"?
All toads are frogs, so saying "frogs" covers all the families that contain animals commonly referred to as "toads." Researchers currently do not believe all the "toads" descend from a common ancestor; therefore, using a collective group name for an unrelated group creates confusion. Just search "difference between frogs and toads" on a search engine for 20 or more definitions. Each one is equally correct, but you have to consider the local "toad" known to the writer. There are, of course, differences between frogs and toads. You'll find these in a chart on page 41 in the chapter on Frog Families.
What we can learn from frogs may be of great use to humans in our future. So far, frogs have been used in anatomical studies, as pregnancy tests before more modern chemical testing, and as models for developing radical treatments for burn patients. They have also served as inspiration for thousands of artists, writers and everyday people. And there is no doubt that they will continue to do so.
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