Last Thursday we noticed this curious request posted on the Norwich listserve:
Desperately Seeking Road Kill
This week promises rainy days and the coming of the spring frog populations. Many of these frogs will cross roads on their way to breeding sites in vernal pools. Some frogs are luckier than others and as Kermit was fond of saying "it's not easy bein' green". Should you happen upon the less fortunate frogs in your commute home, I would be most grateful if you would hop on over, bag them up for me and drop me an email. Please note the location where each frog croaked (see what I did there?). We will also gladly accept your road-killed salamanders.
morbidly yours firstname.lastname@example.org
Turns out Ryan Calsbeek is a biology professor at Dartmouth. He teaches classes in animal behavior and vertebrate zoology.
The professor is collecting data (via frog corpses) to answer a big question.
"The ultimate goal," says Calsbeek, "is to learn how humans are impacting natural communities of wildlife and whether or not they are driving evolution."
In the case of the dead frogs, Calsbeek wants to see if traffic is a potential agent of natural selection.
"Do cars tend to kill more frogs as a function of body size or leg length?" asks the professor. "These are traits that we know influence jumping distance and speed of locomotion. We also know that frogs living in vernal pools near roads have longer legs than frogs living in vernal pools out in the forest so it stands to reason that cars may be driving some local adaptation."