Sound Gardens

Sound Gardens

By Rod Myers

By Rod Myers

I like how wetlands come alive in the spring by becoming sound gardens, compliments of frogs. To some of us, there is no music made by man that equals the voices of frogs. No symphony orchestra can out-concert a prairie pothole with two dozen 1 -1/2 inch frogs singing in it. Frog songs reach deep into our primordial soul. Frogs were here way before us and may have been the world’s first singers. Frogs have been around since the Triassic period. One frog called Triadobatraches dates back 245 million years. Frogs from the Triassic were similar to modern frogs in the head area, having a well-developed external ear, which means they probably sang.

Dinosaurs did not appear on earth until the late Triassic. It’s known that a large family of dinosaurs called duckbills had a bony outgrowth on their head which they probably used to make trumpet-like communication sounds. Some of the duckbills were wetland species, which leads me to imagine a scene where duckbills are trumpeting while 1,000 frogs sing in the background, or put the dinos in the background.

What has changed in 245 million years? Frogs still call from their wetland homes, mostly in the spring and early summer. Dinosaurs, as you know, are extinct, but some evolved into birds. Now frogs share the airwaves with melodious birds, which mostly call in spring and early summer, which is the breeding season for both birds and frogs.

Between 3 and 4 million years ago, primitive man appeared on the African savannas. As time went on, he was attracted to wetlands. Now most of humankind lives very close to wetlands, most of which are oceans.

Was primitive man partially lured to wetlands by singing frogs? Frogs did not help lure primitive man to the oceans because there are no ocean species, but primitive man explored creeks and ponds first, as we did when we were kids. As a child, who could resist a body of water with frogs calling from it? It just may have been primitive man’s children who first explored wetlands.

For many of us lucky humans, there is a section in the pleasant emotion range of our brain that is evoked by singing frogs. If we were to put a radio dial on this range, we’d find the dial at a different spot for each different specie of frog song. No two species would occupy the same location on the dial. Further, I believe each specie evokes a unique emotion or emotions in us.

The emotions I feel when listening to a large number of chorus frogs on a windless, warm, balmy day are unique and different than what I would uniquely feel when listening to spring peepers in a river’s back waters on a chilly day.

Frogs connect to us spiritually, and our soul and planet would be much emptier without them. Unfortunately, frogs are in trouble due to many reasons caused by man. Habitat destruction, pollution and ozone depletion are the three biggest culprits. Frogs would dry up and die quickly without moist surroundings. They take in water through their skin by osmosis. With all the dangerous manmade chemicals in the world’s water cycles, you can probably imagine the peril these ancient and unique beings are in. Frogs have survived mass world extinctions, but they may not survive man’s unwise progress.

The male frog is the one that sings, and the primary goal of its singing is to attract a mate. The secondary goal is to attract a human soulmate. Let’s hope this secondary goal can stir us to save an old spiritual friend.

My thanks to Mike Henderson from Burpee Natural History Museum for helpful knowledge of the Triassic period.

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