Frogs – A Chorus of Colours
By Candace Derickx
My daughters? They rescue frogs and toads from our pool all summer long without so much as a shudder. They think frogs are cool.
Me? Ahhh … their attitude is a parenting win in my books since, as a child, I screamed like a girl every time one of those jumpy amphibians crossed my path.
Kermit would be proud, though, because when the Canadian Museum of Nature announced its latest exhibition, Frogs – A Chorus of Colours, my girls were pretty excited to attend⎯and so was I.
No longer content with the guys in our backyard, they were itching to check out what kinds of frogs other girls were chasing in their backyards.
As it turns out, lots.
Some 5,360 species in fact. As this show reveals, frogs can be found in every backyard on the planet except for Antarctica, which makes them truly global citizens. They’re also some of the planet’s oldest inhabitants dating back to the age of dinosaurs, which puts them at about 200 million years old. No small feat for creatures that face threats daily from predators.
It’s not too hard, then, to understand why the curators decided frogs deserved a little time in the spotlight. After all, the Canadian Museum of Nature has a permanent exhibition dedicated to dinosaurs—and they’re not even around any more. Why shouldn’t we learn a bit more about these tenacious little creatures? Frogs have a lot to teach us about the world in which we live. They can also be a tad scary. (It seems my instincts were right on this!)
Take the Dart Poison Frog, for example. One of these little fellas has enough poison in it to kill 20,000 mice or 10 people. The world’s “Most Poisonous” designation goes not to a spider or a snake but rather a little bitty frog measuring about 1.5 centimetres long. Knowing I wouldn’t sleep otherwise, I looked it up and found that Dart Poison Frogs are only found in Central and South America. Phew.
While not poisonous, the biggest frog on earth is still pretty intimidating. Measuring about two feet wide and weighing up to seven pounds, the Goliath Frog is absolutely mammoth. You’ll only find a skeleton of one on display at the museum, though, since the Goliath is now an endangered species and fails to thrive in captivity. Don’t fret; you can still marvel at the gigantic African Bullfrog and the smaller but just as impressive American Bullfrog.
What about those frogs we find in our own backyards? As you would expect, they’re a pretty hardy bunch being Canadian and all. Most dig deep into the earth to survive our winters but the North American wood frog can actually have 65 per cent of the water in it’s body freeze solid. Imagine that: a froggy ice cube!
As with anything the Canadian Museum of Nature does, the Frogs exhibition is extremely well done. On the day we attended there was a great mix of families and single people, young and old, milling about. Kids will enjoy the mini putt game that simulates the hazards a frog faces each day; they can also make music with frogs. Parents will enjoy this opportunity to get in a little stealth learning and all ages will appreciate the incredible exhibits of frogs from around the globe. Perhaps most fun for my children was dissecting a frog— virtually. I don’t know about you but I’m still scarred from dissecting a frog in my high school science class. Needless to say, I was relieved to see that the blade has been replaced by a mouse.
My biggest takeaway from this exhibit was that over 170 species of frogs have gone extinct in the last 10 years. Naturally, a species of frog will only go extinct every 250 years. It would seem that we’ve upset the natural order of things, and, for that reason we should be very concerned. Aside from their obvious benefits to our eco-system, frogs also have incredible medicinal value to humans. We are only just beginning to understand what they can do for us. As it turns out, frogs are pretty cool. Who knew?
Frogs – A Chorus of Colours runs until May 11. See the Canadian Museum of Nature website, nature.ca, for museum hours. Admission to the museum plus the Frogs exhibition is $16 for adults and $12 for children aged three to 12.