Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Another Reason to Protect Elephants: Frogs Love Their Feet

Animals
Another Reason to Protect Elephants: Frogs Love Their Feet
Asian elephants in Bandipur National Park, India. Mike Prince / CC BY 2.0

By John R. Platt

Some of the tiniest creatures in Myanmar benefit from living near the largest species in the area.


Newly published research reveals that frogs are laying their eggs in the rain-filled footprints of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus), which then provide a safe home for growing tadpoles. The footprints eventually fade away, but they last for a year or more on the forest floor and can serve as important habitats during dry seasons and even as "stepping stones" between frog populations.

Talk about having an environmental footprint.

Rain-filled elephant footprints supporting tadpoles and egg masses.

Steven Platt / WCS Myanmar

No adult frogs were observed taking advantage of these foot-shaped puddles, although those eggs obviously came from somewhere.

This represents an important step in understanding the role of Asian elephants as "ecosystem engineers." African elephants have long been recognized for the way they affect the natural systems around them — a similar study published in 2016 found tadpoles and dozens of insect species living in elephant footprints in Uganda — but Asian elephants have not benefitted from the same level of scientific study.

"There is surprisingly little known about Asian elephants as ecosystem engineers, at least in comparison to African elephants," said lead research Steven Platt, a herpetologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society's Myanmar program. "That said, I think our study and several others indicate that Asian elephants play an important role as ecosystem engineers. Not only do elephants modify vegetation — knocking down trees, removing bamboo, dispersing seeds, etc. — but they also affect the ecosystem in ways that might not be readily obvious, such as creating temporary ponds and dung piles used as food and cover by invertebrates and small vertebrates."

Rain-filled elephant footprints supporting egg masses.

Steven Platt / WCS Myanmar

Platt (no relation) says this underscores the vast interplay between species and illustrates why it's important to protect entire ecosystems and their full range of biodiversity.

And of course, the study further illustrates the need to protect elephants and the species that live around them, much like the previous study in Uganda. "I surely hope this aspect of interconnectedness has been or will be used as an argument for conservation of elephants," said the lead author of 2016 study, Wolfram Remmers with the University of Koblenz‐Landau.

Perhaps more importantly, Platt says the study in Myanmar also reveals the need to look for similar relationships in other nations where endangered Asian elephants still roam. No one knows exactly how many Asian elephants remain in the world, but all indications suggest their populations continue to shrink throughout their range. The paper concludes with a call for action: "studies are still urgently needed on the role of E. maximus as ecosystem drivers, especially in light of the rapid decline of these large fauna."

That decline, obviously, is caused by a creature with a much bigger footprint: humans.

Examining elephant tracks.

Steven Platt / WCS Myanmar


John R. Platt is the editor of The Revelator. An award-winning environmental journalist, his work has appeared in Scientific American, Audubon, Motherboard, and numerous other magazines and publications.

Reposted with permission from our media associate The Revelator.

Sun Cable hopes to start construction of the world's largest solar farm in 2023. Sun Cable
A large expanse of Australia's deserted Outback will house the world's largest solar farm and generate enough energy to export power to Singapore, as The Guardian reported.
Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Construction on the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric station in 2015. Government of Newfoundland and Labrador / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Tara Lohan

In 1999 a cheering crowd watched as a backhoe breached a hydroelectric dam on Maine's Kennebec River. The effort to help restore native fish populations and the river's health was hailed as a success and ignited a nationwide movement that spurred 1,200 dam removals in two decades.

Read More Show Less

Trending

We pet owners know how much you love your pooch. It's your best friend. It gives you pure happiness and comfort when you're together. But there are times that dogs can be very challenging, especially if they are suffering from a certain ailment. As a dog owner, all you want to do is ease whatever pain or discomfort your best friend is feeling.

Read More Show Less
A new study has revealed that Earth's biggest mass extinction was triggered by volcanic activity that led to ocean acidification. Illustration by Dawid Adam Iurino (PaleoFactory, Sapienza University of Rome) for Jurikova et al (2020)

The excess carbon dioxide emitted by human activity since the start of the industrial revolution has already raised the Earth's temperature by more than one degree Celsius, increased the risk of extreme hurricanes and wildfires and killed off more than half of the corals in the Great Barrier Reef. But geologic history shows that the impacts of greenhouse gases could be much worse.

Read More Show Less
Coronavirus-sniffing dogs Miina and Kössi (R) are seen in Vantaa, Finland on September 2, 2020. Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva / AFP/ Getty Images

By Teri Schultz

Europe is in a panic over the second wave of COVID-19, with infection rates sky-rocketing and GDP plummeting. Belgium has just announced it will no longer test asymptomatic people, even if they've been in contact with someone who has the disease, because the backlog in processing is overwhelming. Other European countries are also struggling to keep up testing and tracing.

Meanwhile in a small cabin in Helsinki airport, for his preferred payment of a morsel of cat food, rescue dog Kossi needs just a few seconds to tell whether someone has coronavirus.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch