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“Frogs and toads are disappearing on your planet. Others are born deformed,” reads the ominous message at Frogweb’s Adopt a Frog Pond Web site (www.frogweb.gov/adopt.html). This warning comes courtesy of Captain Ribbitt, the space-age spokesamphibian for the U.S. Geological Survey’s campaign to bring attention to the plight of the little green earthlings.

“He’s a frog from another planet who patrols the galaxy looking out for the conditions under which frogs live and making sure that they are OK,” says Tom Arvis, the illustrator who developed the planet-hopping crusader. Sam Droege, a USGS biologist who helped design the site, says the agency chose the caped amphibian to make the campaign “less stodgy, less bureaucratic.”

The bipedal frog hero, apparently a mutant himself, greets visitors with a simple message: “Save the Frogs.” The site seeks volunteers to help scientists count and monitor normal and mutant frogs, and asks people to report malformed frogs and dwindling frog populations in their areas. The USGS hopes to find the cause of the malformations before humans are at risk of defects like those of Captain Ribbitt’s marshland friends. As Droege says, “Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that point.”

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