Monday, July 25, 2011

Let’s Hear it for Bombina

If members of the Kingdom Animalia could communicate through the Media and, doing so, keep a sharp eye out for discriminatory treatment of their many kinds, be sure that one of the most vocal of the Orders would be the Anura, the classification that includes all of the species of Frog. So where does the toad belong? It turns out that, taxonomically, they are frogs, and the toad designation might be viewed, if you’re a frog, as scurrilous.

Let’s imagine a situation in which the Order of Anura took part in what is known as the Great Dialogue on Living Being Rights. And just so that we, the humans, would get the message right up front, face-to-face, and personally, the chief spokesperson chosen by Frogdom to represent it would no doubt be a European Fire-bellied Toad, a person of quick wit, sardonic temper, and stunning looks—and she would be known frequently to say to the press. “Linnaeus Schminaeus! look. Just tell me what I look like. Do I look like a frog or don’t I? Did I call myself a European Fire-Bellied Toad or did I call myself Bombina bombina? The latter, you will find. Look high and low in Linnaeus’ classification scheme. I urge you to do it. Dig, dig, dig. Nowhere—I assure you, nowhere—will you encounter the word ‘toad’ within the order of Anura. Yes, yes. I know. One of you will say that the Family Bufonidae are called the ‘true’ toads. You might say that. But we, in the Order of Anura, deny any such designations apparently based on your distorted aesthetic sense and well known color prejudices. Do I look brown to you? Only if you’re color-blind. But I’m a toad so far as you’re concerned. Nor will you find Bufonidae anywhere in my name. But I’m still a toad. Well, in defense of the Bufonidae—and the 500 species they represent—I must insist that none of them thinks itself a toad either! You point to special glands in the back of their heads that they use to squirt poisons? Well, my dears! What you call poison is a uniquely delightful chemical feature of all frog designs, in some more, in some less self-dramatized. Our research—and we’ve done it in depth—suggests that Linnaeus never used the word. Neither should you. There are no toads—only frogs. And tell them Bombina told you.”

Inspired by reading “I killed the Bufo Toad,” by Mark Derr in the New York Times (July 23, 2011). Pic thanks to Wikipedia here.

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