It's a pretty amazing world we live in. Dozens of new species are discovered within days of more nearing extinction. I've heard it many times, and it seems almost corny to repeat it, but it has to be true that species have become extinct due habitat destruction, invasive species and who knows what else that we didn't even know existed.
An example of one "what else" is the story of what's happening to the mountain yellow-legged frog. This little fellow would seem to be quite the survivor, living up to nine months under snow and ice in the Sierra Nevada range. The populations of these frogs were at one time so great that they were practically a tripping hazard. However this frog is headed towards extinction, fast.
But interestingly, it's not entirely our fault. Introducing trout to the lakes that the frogs had called home for sport fishing and forcing them into smaller more isolated lakes has not helped matters, nor has agricultural pollutants transported to the area by prevailing winds, but it turns out the biggest culprit is a fungus.
The chytrid fungus has caused frog extinctions in other countries, and grows on the skin of the frog, making it hard for them to properly use their pores to control their water intake — they die of thirst while they are living in water. And it is not just the mountain yellow-legged frog that is dying from this fungus, the boreal toad population in Rocky Mountain National Park is also being decimated by this fungus.
And because it is a fungus, not people that are pushing the frogs to extinction, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is struggling to declare the frog an endangered species. Since the fungus is natural and not the by-product of agricultural waste or pollution, it is hard to secure funding to save a frog afflicted with it. Why save a frog that is dying through no fault of ours?
What do you think? Should funding be set aside to save species from extinction if they are becoming extinct through natural causes? Or should we focus our resources on trying to save species that are facing extinction as a direct result of our actions?