When schoolchildren on a field trip found frogs with missing legs in a Minnesota pond 12 years ago, the mystery captured the imagination of biologists and the public. Soon reports of amphibians with missing or extra limbs poured in from sites around the country, including New England. In some places, as much as half the frog population was affected.
Sign up for: Globe Headlines e-mail | Breaking News Alerts What could be causing the deformities? Some scientists pointed to pesticides, which might be endangering people, too. Those who blamed parasites won out, however, when researchers created deformed frogs in the lab by subjecting them to infections of the wormlike ribeiroia ondatrae.
But research published this month in the journal EcoHealth argues that a parasitic invasion can't explain the plague that has hit ponds in Vermont's Lake Champlain Basin, where up to 30 percent of leopard frogs have missing or deformed legs. The paper is part of a growing consensus among amphibian biologists that the mutant-frog conundrum is too complex to be pegged to a single cause.
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