Sending soulful ribbits to frogs in Federal Way | Nandell Palmer

Ladies and gentlemen, for 2011 we have all heard the economic prognoses from our elected officials.

Harrumph! What about the state of our environment in Federal Way? To whom do we look for such an update?

Don’t fall off your rocking chair for this one. Shhhhhh! The envelope, please. According to Kermit and ‘em, our state of the environment is in tip-top shape.

Lately, as soon as dusk draws nigh, the cacophony of frogs takes over my neighborhood. Their soulful ribbits have been quite fascinating, especially to my wife and middle son.

Not since I visited Puerto Rico some 11 years ago had I been privileged to such nightly serenades from frogs. Their frogs are called coqui.

Sometimes it’s hard to spot frogs. They like to hide from people. You will probably hear a frog before you see one.

It is highly touted by scientists that frogs are the ideal candidates to determine whether a region’s environment is healthy. Amphibians are good indicators of significant environmental changes that may go initially undetected by humans. Frogs are beneficial to humans because they eat so many insects that are bad for us.

Humans breathe through lungs, which are protected from direct contact with air and water. Frogs, on the other hand, breathe at least partly through their skin, which is constantly exposed to everything in their environment. Consequently, their bodies are much more sensitive to environmental factors such as disease, pollution, toxic chemicals, ultraviolet radiation and habitat destruction.

The continental United States boasts at least 90 frog and toad species. Frog populations around the world have shown increasing signs of stress in recent years. Some species have disappeared altogether. And the global declines and deformities could be an early warning that some of our ecosystems, even seemingly pristine ones, are seriously out of balance.

The Pharaohic plague aside, love them or hate them, society has long been preoccupied with frogs. They’re featured prominently in folklore and fairy tales in many cultures. Modern-day pop culture, too, cannot seem to get enough.

Mark Twain gained national prominence as a serious writer when he penned “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” in 1865. And who will soon forget “The Prince and the Frog?”

Kermit the Frog — courtesy of Jim Henson, “Sesame Street” and “The Muppet Show” — has croaked his way into the hearts of millions of doting fans worldwide.

Ancient cultures have associated frogs with weather. Some Australian aborigines and Native American groups believed that frogs were the “bringers” of rain.

In India, frogs were believed to personify thunder in the sky. Actually, in Sanskrit, the word for frog also means cloud. In China, they see the “toad,” not the “man” on the moon. They say that eclipses happen when the “toad in the moon” tries to swallow the moon itself.

The Greeks and Romans associated frogs with fertility and harmony, and with licentiousness in association with Aphrodite.

Don’t blame the ladies this time around for doing the palavering. It is said that male frogs do most of the talking. The best time to listen for frog calls is in the spring and summer.

The primary reasons why frogs give shout-outs are to attract females and to tell other frogs that there is danger afoot.

The next time you hear this gravelly philharmonic orchestra going full blast at twilight, harbor no reservation about ranidaphobia — the fear of frogs. Just join in the songfest of gaiety and mirth. If all you can do is croak, then you are in good company.

In an age when environmentalists globally are bemoaning the decrease of frogs and other amphibians, our area is teeming with them. Doesn’t that speak volumes for our welcoming habitats here? Ribbit to the polliwogs of Federal Way!


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