A canary in a coal mine?
Amphibians are notoriously sensitive to environmental contaminants and are often the proverbial 'canaries in the coal mine,' indicating problematic levels of toxins. Amphibians have also been recently highlighted as a potential sentinel for disease epidemics resulting from global warming. (Nuthatch has written more on this particular topic.) Frogs, salamanders and others in this family of vertebrates, take in oxygen and water through the skin and therefore can increase concentrations of pollutants to toxic levels more quickly and irreversibly than most other species. In fact, worldwide amphibian populations are decreasing, and environmental toxins are thought to be one potential cause.
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