Frogs: The Thin Green Line

Frogs have been living on this planet for more than 250 million years, and over the centuries, evolved into some of the most wondrous and diverse creatures on earth.  Today, however, all their remarkable adaptations and survival tactics are failing them.  Recent discoveries are startling: more than a third of all amphibians – most of which are frogs and toads – have already been lost, and more are disappearing every day.  It is an environmental crisis unfolding around the globe, traveling from Australia to North and South America.  Where the calls of frogs once filled the air, scientists now hear only silence.  Ecosystems are beginning to unravel, and the potential to discover important medical cures may be lost forever.  Habitat loss, pollution and a human population that has doubled in the past 50 years have set the stage for their diminished numbers.  But now, a fungus called chytrid has been identified as the major culprit, and so far the spread of the fungus can’t be stopped.

Chytrid continues to move quickly, extinguishing entire frog populations in a matter of months.  Scientists have taken drastic measures to counteract it, such as evacuating frogs from the wild and sheltering them in a sterile environment.  The El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center in Central Panama, for example, houses 58 species of frogs in their facility, including the rare golden frog, which no longer exists in the wild. To date, the only chytrid-free area left in Panama is the Burbayar Forest, a thriving environment still full of healthy, unaffected frogs.

Frogs may seem small and insignificant, but their bodies may hold the key to important new discoveries in medical research.  Scientists are finding that chemical compounds found in frogs’ skins can be used to treat pain and block infections, and are even being explored as HIV treatments.  Our chances for the discovery of future medical miracles may be slipping away with the disappearance of these tiny creatures in our midst.

Their impact on the world’s ecosystems is great.  Frogs sit right in the middle of the food chain, and without them, other creatures are disappearing, too.  We are only just beginning to understand what life may be like without them.  The race is on to stem the tide – before the next frog crosses the thin, green line.

Frogs: The Thin Green Line premieres Sunday, April 5 at 8pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

  • Thayer ( Frog Lady) Cueter

    On behalf of Just Frogs Toads Too Foundation in Edmonds, WA….we thank you for your support. The concern for these special creatures can no longer be ignored. The launch of 2008 Year of the Frog was a great beginning to the importance we frog lovers share and the need to educate the public on this environmental crisis we face.Looking forward to seeing “The Thin Green Line”. Thayer Cueter LVT

  • Thayer “Frog Lady” Cueter

    On behalf of Just Frogs Foundation Edmonds Washington, we praise your efforts on the continuation of awareness of these special creatures….The Frog!

  • Will Knots

    btw a great frog forum is here


    Does anyone know what kind of frog this is? I saw him in the Nat Geo magazine. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  • adele Arrowsmith

    I am aware of this story about frogs in the north woods of Wisconsin they have been diminishing over the last 30 years that I have been there in the summer. the place is 70 miles north and 15 west of Green Bay.on the tongue of the glaciers.

  • Peter Keane, Curator of Herpetology

    03/29/2009 :: 01:34:10 PM
    RACHAEL Says:

    Does anyone know what kind of frog this is? I saw him in the Nat Geo magazine. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    *Answer: without viewing the frog up close.. I would say this is a glass frog from Central America, Cochranella spinosa or perhaps Cochranella ilex.. you can find these and all glass frogs in the book by author Brian Kubicki titled; Costa Rica Glass Frogs… Peter Keane

  • Kisco

    I believe the general public has no clue that this is happening and no clue why its important. I try to use my website, which makes no money at all, and is only a labor of love,, to get the word out. But I am a tiny voice in the wilderness. Meanwhile, we should hope that the Amphibian Ark program and others like it can rescue and preserve as many endangered species as possible. Maybe someday we can hope to repopulate. Anyone with a website can use it to post links to because even if one person makes a donation or does something to help, then its worth it. We all have a responsibility to this cause as fellow Earth inhabitants and part of the circle of life.

  • John Clare of

    It’s great to see a documentary like this highlighting the plight of amphibians to a wide audience. If the previews are anything to go by, the show will be superb.

  • Dave Dennett

    Its a real shame. I lived in Panama in the middle 70’s, and the jungles were full of frogs and snakes and other critters. Its wonderful to see people proactively trying to protect the frogs, and the ecosystem that relies on them.

  • disappointed

    Only on the side of those that agree, I believe.

  • Barney Lonzo

    As the documentary pointed out:Frog may seem small and insignificant, but their bodies may hold the key to important new discoveries in medical research. Scientists are finding that chemical compounds found in frogs skins can be used to treat pain and block infections. What can WE do to stop them from being extinguishing from our midst? What I found most disturbing in the documentary is scientists have discovered frogs living in water, 2/3nd less than the EPA standards and are still being significant infected. I hope this knowledge doesn’t come to late, save ourselves and the frogs and snakes and other critters will be Ok.!!!

  • briantravelman

    I’m so glad they finaly changed the narrator! I was getting really tired of that F Murrey Abraham guy!

  • B. Hill

    Disturbing as this documentary was, it further shows how the use of chemicals in our modern world affects the environment.

    Some of the frogs tested has 2 – 3 times the EPA allowed amount of ATRAZINE, a common yard chemical (Weed-B-Gone, Triazicide and many other products) in their systems.

    I worked in a Lowe’s garden center for 5 years. The amount of weed killers and pesticides which were sold each week was staggering! More frightening was the fanatical attitude of the customers who tried to kill every weed and every pest.

    They are also putting their children and pets in danger from over exposure to chemicals.

    This says it all, folks. NOW is the time for everyone to be more conscious of what they use on their lawns. There are many natural solutions – and – it’s time to get real: it ISN’T the end of the world if your lawn isn’t perfect!

    We have to stop trying to control nature because we are destroying our planet and EVERYTHING on it.

  • Cynthia

    The frogs are on exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science. Frogs:A Chorus of Colors. On a whim , I went to see these interesting, colorful creatures. It was there I learned of the fungus killing them. The museum is trying to get the message out.

  • Ranting Woman Ranting Daily

    [...] 7, 2009 Last night I watched a PBS documentary on “Nature” called “Frogs: The Thin Green Line”. These amphibians survived the extinction of the dinosaurs and are truly [...]

  • Roger

    The 1st Annual Save The Frogs Day is April 28th, 2009

    Organized by SAVE THE FROGS! nonoprofit organization.
    Spread The Word!

  • Selma

    Bats are also dieing in the US due to a possible fungal infection. Is it possible this is related to the frog fungal issue?

  • Moses de los Reyes

    I was touched after I saw the documentary on PBS. I truly admire the scientists that are dedicated in conserving the frogs and their habitats. More power to the people who help in maintaining our high quality of life! I’m with the Mt. Diablo Audubon Society and I know the similar tragedy that is happening to birds and their habitats. A presentation to our Audubon Chapter would be much appreciated. Please tell me how to invite a local presenter on the urgency of amphibian, especially frogs, conservation at our Audubon Society meetings. Please contact me by e-mail. We’re all in this together: Conservation of our diminishing natural resources. Thank you and best regards,

    Moses de los Reyes

  • Bushido Hacks

    There was no shortage of frogs in Black Jack and Spanish Lake, Missouri last summer! They were all over the neighborhood. Generally, they would dwell in Coldwater Creek which would drain out into the Missouri River before combining with the Mississippi River. If herpetologists wnat to find out how such an explosion in the frog population occured in this area, they should find the answers right here.

  • pbs did a special on the chyrid fungus – Dendroboard

    [...] did a special on the chyrid fungus I thought it was intersting and thought i would share. Frogs: The Thin Green Line – Introduction – Amphibians – Extinction – Allison Argo | Nature __________________ -Dennis Peters Cobalts 1.2.0 Powder blue 1.1.0 vents. 0.0.3 orange [...]

  • Rrrrrrrrrrribit

    As a kid I used to enjoy watching and occasionally catching (temporarily) frogs in ponds and puddles in western Maine. About ten years ago, I noticed the leopard frogs disappeared from the vernal pools (temporary puddles) and the bullfrogs and other species were drastically reduced in number. To think the same thing is happening on a global scale, even in environments most would consider pristine and untouched by human activity is alarming and depressing.

    If this biological crisis isn’t our canary in the coal mine, if it doesn’t serve as a wake-up call that we’re screwing things up royally, I don’t know what will. But hey, at least our lawns will be weed-free. :-/

  • Jules

    Phyllodytes auratus is still in the wild!!!!!

    I have seen it twice in 2007 & 2008

  • Luis Saenz

    Having spent some 55 plus years traversing the Costa Rican wilderness, I have seen some of these “missing” amphibians disappear.
    October 2009, I will join another expedtion into registering whatever amphibians we might find, in the deep wilderness rain and cloud forests of Costa Rica.

  • Donna Herb

    I would like to establish frogs in our yard which has a stream(year-round) and very small marsh area.Where can I get tadpoles in Edmonds, WA?

  • trading lawns for frogs | steve’s alternative recursion

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  • Rita Yandrasevich

    Hello! I am looking for tv programs for 8 and 9 year old children to see and learn. Are there any schedules for them available. Thank you for any considertion you give this request. Rita Yandrasevich

  • Tammy Travis

    Wow! Thank you for all this wonderfully educatioinal and beautifully presented information. As a teacher, I find that children are interested and motivated by your presentations. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication.

  • Adriana

    Thank you for this program. It seems like a lot of people don’t realize that many frogs species are becoming extinct or deformed. I hope this program helps to raise awareness so that they can be saved and many future generations will get to see these amazing creatures.

  • Phil Savoie

    Alison what a lovely film. Outstanding work on a creature near and dear to both of our hearts. A troubling natural history story wonderfully crafted. Three cheers to you, Andy, Fred and Janet. All my best, Phil Savoie

  • Marguerite Prince Acosta

    I am fortunate to live in Louisiana USA, where we have a very micro small ‘pond’…we allow the water from our hot tub to drain into it to grow LA Iris and other lillies. A side effect to our garden pond has been frogs. They croak loudly when we drain our tub, and the sound is so unique, sounds similar to geese honking… yesterday, my son found a small green frog and a salamandar inside a small ice chest that had been left outside, and contained a small amount of water and was hosting mosquito tadpoles. Apparently, the tree frog and salamandar were feeding on them. We photographed and released them back to the pond area.
    We are surrounded by creatures and feel blessed that we have not destroyed them with any chemicals.

  • Kerry Kriger, SAVE THE FROGS!

    Please get your community involved in the 2nd Annual Save The Frogs Day this April 30th:


    Dr. Kerry Kriger
    Save The Frogs – Founder, Executive Director, Ecologist

  • Mike


  • Jane

    I love frogs and I love this show. Thank you, Jane

  • Jane

    Having said that, in the above post, I must say that I watched it on Pay TV and that the pbs footage is not available in my area [meaning Australia] due to ‘Rights’ – so I take it the internet now has boundaries that deem such footage inaccessible to would-be supporters Which is why I donot -as much as I would want to – contribute monetarily or now will not leave my will to save the frogs – if I can’t even access to view then why support something that fails to support my simplest needs? Jane

  • Susan Newman

    At Frogs Are Green, we’re doing everything we can to help bring this important information to the public. Most people do not know this is happening, so thank you for helping to save the frogs!

    Susan Newman

  • A. MacDonald

    In the program, a frog was mentioned that produces a pain-killer that is more powerful than morphine but is non-addictive. Please let me know if this pain-killer is currently (or when it may become) available by prescription in North America. If anyone can give me any information it would be appreciated very much!

  • Matt

    @ MacDonald watch” the venom cures” that is a wonderfull episode as well!

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  • SMB

    I’m doing a research paper for my English 101 class. I decided to do it on frogs because I have two Pacific Chorus Frogs and a lot of people don’t understand why there so important to our world. I knew there was a problem with the mutation of frogs but not the reality of how bad it really is. We need more people out there to inform the public on the side effects of not having amphibians in our world.

  • Robert J. Breheny

    The “Thin Green Line” Is perhaps the most informative, hard-hitting and relevant Nature episode produced in years. It should be required viewing in every level of school worldwide. The scientist from Australia should be recognized as an international treasure and hero as should all the scientists and conservationists involved in the struggle. These tiny humble creatures serve as a red flag for our planet. When will we wake up? When will we get it?

  • Becky Harmon

    I have had the pure enjoyment of having “poison dart frogs”, the dendrobate species, for several years now. It is an absolute pleasure to create tropical rain forest terrariums for these frogs that are all captive bred. My frogs are very happy in their environments and have been breeding and I have been able to raise several generations of tadpoles to froglets. I want to share my joy of this miracle and have made these tadpoles available to classrooms in the Knoxville, TN area. If you are in this area, please email me.

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