What’s the matter with this frog?

by Matthew Cobb

I am tempted to post a blistering rant about the 171 job losses that my employer, the University of Manchester, has just decided to impose – including 65 academics in the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, where I work. It’ll be like that United flight – if they don’t get enough volunteers, they will throw people off. But I won’t.

Here’s a picture sent to me by one of my students, Todd Rye. Todd was caving somewhere in the north of England when he came across this frog (a UK common frog). They assume it had been washed in. The frog had some sort of red film on its eye, or its third eyelid was red – any ideas as to what it was going on?


And I can’t resist it – here’s a comment from the Manchester Evening News article about the University of Manchester job losses. I can’t tell whether it is satirical or not, but it is about the only thing today that made me smile.



  1. Merilee
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    No idea about the froggie but loved the bus driver’s rant! Someone should point out thet he must have started out on toy cars…

  2. Merilee
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 8:47 am | Permalink


  3. Posted May 11, 2017 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    He’s obviously a gremlin. “Plunk yer magic twanger, froggy!”

    re Manchester;
    Hey, he must know something…..he’s the guy who brives the dus!

  4. Arno Matthias
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Pink eye, obviously.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted May 11, 2017 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      “Pink eye” as in welder’s conjunctuvitis?
      There’s not a lot of UV in most caves I’ve grovelled through.

  5. pck
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    It’s probably bumping its sensitive eyes against every rock in the dark. If only there was a process by which animals living in caves could lose the dangerous liability that is their useless eyesight.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted May 11, 2017 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      Given that the frog still has surface colouration, it’s very likely to be an accidental entrant into the underground, and not something that has even spent a significant proportion of it’s own life in the cave.
      I see in the background both light creamy-coloured rocks and dark ones. Having grovelled through more than a few caves in Yorkshire I’d diagnose them as the “Great Scar” limestone in which the cave is cut and mudstones from the “Millstone Grit” series that overlays most of the cavernous limestones. That would suggest that the transport distance from surface to this location isn’t very large. There’s also a rounding difference between the gritstones and limestones, suggesting that the darker stones had an appreciably larger distance of transport than the limestones. So I don’t think that froggy has travelled far to get to where it was found. (Of course, froggy could have taken a very different route to human-size cavers.)
      I can’t actually recall having ever seen a frog in a cave – a couple of fish, more than a few worms. And a considerable number of sheep. The sheep splash where a frog might just bounce.

      • Todd
        Posted May 11, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        Hi, I’m the student who found the frog. I found it fairly deep in the cave, down a few pitches and along a streamway. I believe it was washed there. I am very impressed with your ability to identify the rock types, it was in the gaping gill system.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted May 11, 2017 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

          I’ve thrashed around more than a few times in GG. I used to be in the Craven, with their August Winch Meet. Where’d you find it?
          I can almost imagine Froggy hopping along Fell Beck [hop] happy frog, [hop] happy frog, [ho] puzzled frog ; “ribbit”, very puzzled frog, “worried ribbit”, “very worried ribbit”; [dark splosh], [hop] happy frog.
          I’ve a vague memory of Crossley (or maybe Scoff?) reporting on meeting a frog while bubbling through the back end of Ingleborough cave doing support work for one of Sid Perou’s films. Very faint memory.

          • Todd
            Posted May 26, 2017 at 5:44 am | Permalink

            It was at the bottom of the the third pitch in, which was quite an impressive distance i thought, a lot further than other frogs ive seen in cave systems. he seemed pretty lively as well

      • Kurt Lewis Helf
        Posted May 11, 2017 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

        As an ecologist who works in caves I can attest to the fact that I see frogs who’ve blundered into caves quite often. After they starve to death they become food for cave invertebrates. Maybe that’s why I also run across clean frog skeletons…

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted May 11, 2017 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

          I was wondering if there would be enough water-born life (“shrimp”, etc) to sustain a frog? But that’s so variable.
          Our (UK) main source of inadvertent cave visitors is of course the sheep. Closely followed by Boy Scouts.

          • Kurt Lewis Helf
            Posted May 12, 2017 at 9:08 am | Permalink

            There’s plenty of aquatic and terrestrial life it’s just very small, cryptic, and not very abundant. If the entrance is horizontal your average ranid (which is what appears to be pictured) can move in and out of the entrance and, while they may capture a cave cricket once in a while, tend to use the entrance as a relatively predator-free space. If the ranid falls into a vertical entrance, it’s doomed. I am unaware of any cave-adapted frog species. There are plenty of examples of cave-adapted salamanders, however.

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted May 12, 2017 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

              The likely entrances for this ranid is 100m of vertical descent in 1 (Rat Hole), 2 (Main Shaft, Bar Pot), 4 or more hops. Coming “horizontally” would involve at least 2 zero-air-space upstream dives totally about a kilometre.
              Alas poor Froggy, we knew him, Horatio.

      • Diane G.
        Posted May 11, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

        I’m pretty sure pck was being droll. 😉

  6. Randy schenck
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    I could not say about the frog but a bus driver does spend most of his life sitting on his brains.

  7. Dominic
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Funding is, as they say, about to fall off a cliff.
    UCL is doing a similar exercise – I cannot say I am hopeful of lasting to retirement…

  8. Kevin
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    From the physics community I thought Britain was already having serious issues holding any positions, research or teaching. My best advice is to understand how to modify services, like teaching, and make them fit a changing economy.

    There are probably some American universities and colleges that are already trying to understand how to make departments stay alive, not just science, but obviously the liberal arts. There have got to be some hints of what strategies or policies might work and be applied to Manchester in particular.

    • Craw
      Posted May 11, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      I have little sympathy for Dr Cobb’s position. Too many people go to university, and there are too many administrators, at least on this side of the the pond. There should be cuts. There is no reason why universities should be immune from budget cuts when they were not immune from spending increases in the past.

      I do not know how MU apportioned the cuts or if they did so well, but mocking a bus driver provides no insight into either that question or whether the level of cuts was too high, too low, or appropriate. It just sounds to me like Dr Cobb, displeased with budgetary decisions, has mocked a man of lower status and income who is displeased with prior budgetary decisions. I have little sympathy for that either.

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted May 11, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        Just b/c there are cuts does not mean we should like them.
        But I would hope that cuts, if necessary, be apportioned to admins although I have yet to hear a case where that happened.

      • Posted May 11, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

        In general, education raises peoples’ standard of living. In the US, unless you have a university education or a very good skill set (fine welding, electrician, others similar) you are very (very) likely to be condemned to a crappy economic outlook (despite all the B.S. spouted by der Drumpfenführer and the rest of the GOP).

        By what standard do you judge this to be true, “Too many people go to university”?

        Do you mean they aren’t cut out for it and fail? What are you driving at? Are you saying the citizens of the UK over-educated, on average?

      • Randy schenck
        Posted May 11, 2017 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

        Where is your justification for the statement, too many go to University? Are there too many going to high school as well. Too much education? We would not have the kind of crap leaders (in politics) today if more people had an education. They are easily fooled, as you apparently are.

        • Craw
          Posted May 11, 2017 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

          You mention some benefits of university enrollments. There are also costs, which must be considered. You allude to one in your comment: the shortage of skilled tradesman could be alleviated by more education — and it IS education — in skilled trades. There are of course other costs.

          Do you agree that logically there must be a level where too many people are in university? Imagine everyone is either a full time student or faculty; who farms or nurses? At that point all of your arguments would still be true but not establish that the level of enrollment is not too high at that point. So they do not establish it about the current level. They are not arguments about the marginal enrollment.

          I believe there is evidence that the marginal social costs now exceeds the marginal social benefits of the marginal enrollment. That is the point which must be debated.

          As a general point, an argument for X is not an argument for *more* X. Likewise an argument for less X is not an argument against X. Where I live we need to close sparsely populated and dispersed schools, because of declining population. Saying that does not mean we need to end schooling.

          • Randy schenck
            Posted May 11, 2017 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

            You can debate the cost benefit of going to college if it makes you feel good but I don’t see the point. Going further in school is a great benefit to nearly all who do it. All of the comparisons say it is so. Also, considering the terribly high cost of higher education in the U.S. I don’t think you need to worry about over educating the masses. Many never get there due to cost alone. I think the stats also indicate that 50% who start never make it to graduation for one reason or another.

            I made it through with the help of the GI Bill and was lucky to get it. I also have two sisters and a brother who did not graduate from any college. May not be the average in this debate but financially I did better than the other three combined.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted May 11, 2017 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think Matthew was mocking the bus driver – I think he’s assuming the message isn’t actually from a bus driver.

        Also, where do you get off telling someone they have no right to be upset by a threat to their future? Your lack of sympathy for a fellow human being is cold and heartless.

        And, as Randy says, everyone, and society as a whole, would do better with more education whatever their station in life.

        • Diane G.
          Posted May 11, 2017 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

          + 1

        • Colin McLachlan
          Posted May 12, 2017 at 4:26 am | Permalink


  9. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    If the frog has an inflamed eyelid or cornea, then that would be from irritation or injury. I would want to check if the interior of the eye is filled with blood.

    • Todd
      Posted May 11, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

      Hi there, I’m the student who found the frog. The interior of the eye was not filled with blood, and the film in question seemed to be some kind of eyelid as it was blinked away on one eye.

  10. jknath1
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    I can’t say for sure what it is but I worked with xenopus laevis for many years and every spring there was an outbreak of some type of pink eye/ pink leg disease that would wipe out part of our colony. Never did determine the cause or the nature of the disease.

  11. nicky
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    It is impossible to diagnose without examining the froggy, but red eye and a ‘red film’, (many frogs do have a nictitating membrane) suggests a kind of viral infection.

  12. Aaron Siek
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    I keep and breed frogs — mostly small tropical poison frogs — and have seen the red eye phenomenon in frogs suffering from a bacterial infection. Treatment with common anti-bacterials by application to the skin can succeed in returning the frog’s eye color to normal after a few weeks. Mechanical injury or other infections may also be a cause, but in my personal collection I have seen this only in frogs affected with a bacterial infection, FWIW.

    • Posted May 12, 2017 at 4:04 am | Permalink

      Do you suppose daylight having UV would reduce it, by killing bacteria?

  13. Posted May 11, 2017 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Can’t help with froggy as I have no froggy degree or caving experience.

    I would, however, like to add to the comments about education. Some countries evaluate their children’s abilities through testing well before they get to university decision time. Those tested as having college abilities go to college. Those who don’t, if they continue on with schooling, are sent to schools that teach industrial skills. I assume that those with neither skill-set end up in the workforce at that time (if they can find jobs) or on the dole. Not egalitarian, I know, but we aren’t all equal in any sense of the word (except maybe legally and in opportunity). Life isn’t fair and we aren’t all formulated with exactly the same array of skills to take advantage of the those laws and opportunities.

    That said, education is of value whether it comes from a university, industrial school or is self taught. Some of our most intelligent (genius) ancestors in history were essentially autodidacts. That’s why Benjamin Franklin started lending libraries for people who wanted to learn and couldn’t afford books. It is ridiculous to look down on a bus driver as a lesser life form without knowing anything more about him. He may be a self taught mental giant. Maybe knows more than you.

    I also think it’s a mistake to equate university educations and diplomas with jobs.
    It does work out that way sometimes, but one has to exert some careful thought regarding the degree to attain and it’s applicability to any well reimbursed work. For example, an engineering student’s degree is far more likely to lead to a better-paying job than any liberal arts major’s degree.

    I sympathize with Matthew Cobb and his colleagues and hope Matthew will not be cut from the roster. But, if one lives long enough, you go through multiple iterations of abundance vs. dearth. My husband and I seemed to have the “luck” of entering education and job markets during times of recession and, somehow, managed to survive pretty well. We lived in Palo Alto, CA during one such recession which had engineers losing their jobs (some of them committing suicide) and live ones being sent to universities (such as Stanford) to learn other skills. So, they learned computer programming, which at that time was short of jobs also. So, then they had two sets of skills in which they were likely to be unemployable.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted May 11, 2017 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      Maybe it does not mean as much as it did 40 or 50 years ago but I think maybe it does and that is simply the degree. Graduation opens so many more doors than not. In the end it only means what you make of it but it gets you in the door. Try to get into any firms college trainee program without a degree. Try to get into the military as an officer without a degree. The high school education does not open a lot of doors and without this as minimum, nothing opens. In the U.S. the graduation rate from high school is only 80%.

      • Jonathan Wallace
        Posted May 11, 2017 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

        “It is ridiculous to look down on a bus driver as a lesser life form without knowing anything more about him. He may be a self taught mental giant. Maybe knows more than you.”

        What in Prof Cobb’s post indicates that he looks down on bus drivers in general or even this particular bus driver (assuming she/he really is one)as a lesser life form?

        • Colin McLachlan
          Posted May 12, 2017 at 4:29 am | Permalink


  14. Jonathan Wallace
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    There is an attitude amongst many of those who campaigned for Brexit that once the UK is free of the shackles of Brussels we will prosper because we are ‘great’. Well, the name Great Britain merely refers to the fact that the island it refers to (England+ Wales+Scotland)is the largest of the British Isles and our days of international domination are well behind us and the reality is that, in most areas of human endeavour, these days we are not particularly special. Certainly in terms of industrial performance we lag behind many other nations.

    One area, however, in which the UK can still boast of being a top level performer is in the University sector where we still have a number of truly world ranking institutions. Ironically Brexit and the anti immigrant stance and policies of the government are a serious threat to the continuing success of our universities. Tougher controls on overseas students are leading to reduced enrollments and the lucrative fees they bring whilst uncertainty over what Brexit will mean, both threatens British involvement in international collaborative projects and has caused many academic staff with EU citizenship to question whether their careers are secure in Britain and to seek alternative opportunities back on the continent. Manchester is only one of a number of universities looking to shed staff a a result of these circumstance. It is a terrible own goal.

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