A Plague of Frogs: The Horrifying True Story

William Souder, Author Hyperion Books $23.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-7868-6360-0
The world's frogs are disappearing, and frog deformities are proliferating--a potential warning sign of a looming, environmentally triggered human health disaster. That's the message of this shocking and important report from journalist Souder, who broke this story in the Washington Post after a group of Minnesota schoolchildren found abnormal frogs with horribly deformed, extra or missing limbs in a farm pond in 1995. While outbreaks of amphibian limb deformities have been recorded for more than two centuries, the current crop of abnormalities is particularly widespread and numerous--affecting up to 50% of some frog species, with reports pouring in from California and Vermont to Canada and Japan, and involving leg, mouth, bone and other deformities in frogs, toads and salamanders. Although the cause of this nightmare remains a mystery, Souder, who visited research labs, interviewed biologists and hunted frogs across the country, ranks pesticides as the prime suspect. Many scientists, he explains, believe that substances that mimic hormones in the environment--pesticides, solvents, dioxin, plastics, natural compounds--are wreaking developmental havoc in wildlife and humans. Souder's labyrinthine investigation also impartially reviews rival theories blaming frog deformities on parasites, disease, predation, traumatic amputation, acid rain, climate change, ultraviolet exposure resulting from a hole in the ozone layer, or some combination of these factors. Because frogs are considered a sentinel species--a kind of biological early-warning system of environmental imbalance--Souder's intriguing scientific detective story, though inconclusive, deserves a wide readership, and his low-keyed, cautious approach adds to its impact. Agent, Elyse Cheney of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates; 3-city author tour. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/28/2000
Release date: 03/01/2000
Paperback - 332 pages - 978-0-8166-4178-9
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-7868-8704-0
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