Wednesday, April 27, 2005 Posted: 1:18 PM EDT (1718 GMT)
BERLIN, Germany (AP) -- More than 1,000 toads have puffed up and exploded in a Hamburg pond in recent weeks, and German scientists still have no explanation for what's causing the combustion, an official said.
Both the pond's water and body parts of the toads have been tested, but scientists have been unable to find a bacteria or virus that would cause the toads to swell up and pop, said Janne Kloepper, of the Hamburg-based Institute for Hygiene and the Environment.
"It's absolutely strange," she said. "We have a really unique story here in Hamburg. This phenomenon really doesn't seem to have appeared anywhere before."
The toads at a pond in the upscale neighborhood of Altona have been blowing up since the beginning of the month, filling up like balloons until their stomachs suddenly burst.
"It looks like a scene from a science-fiction movie," Werner Schmolnik, the head of a local environment group, told the Hamburger Abendblatt daily. "The bloated animals suffer for several minutes before they finally die."
Biologists have come up with several theories, but Kloepper said that most have been ruled out.
The pond's water quality is no better or worse than other bodies of water in Hamburg, the toads did not appear to have a disease, and a laboratory in Berlin has ruled out the possibility that it is a fungus that made its way from South America, she said.
She said that tests will continue. In the meantime, city residents have been warned to stay away from the pond.
Reminds me of a video I had to watch on biological invasions when I was at Rutgers. It featured the cane toad, a species of giant bullfrogs that were important to either new zealand or australia, I don't recall which, to consume the cane beetle which was destroying the sugar crop. It turns out that no one actually checked to make sure that the toads would eat the damn bug and when they failed to do so, someone dumped them into a pond. Years later the damn things were everywhere, breeding out of control. These things are pretty damn huge, around a foot or more in diameter and bulbous. They also secrete a poison and managed to do a good job killing off midsized predators to near extinction. None of the foxes or wolves or birds of prey knew the darn thing was poisonous so they would kill, eat, and die.
In the video I was watching there was a scene where you saw down this long road and in the distance you see a truck swerving backa nd forth as if the driver were drunk off his ass. AS it gets closer and the focus adjusts you see that the road is covered with these gigantic cane toads and the driver is running them over with his car. As he drove over each one it would audibly pop like an overstuffed garbage bag filled with blood and guts.
I can't believe in prepping this story no reporter thought to take a camera crew out there and record a popping. That would be spiffy.