To breed, perchance to die.
It sounds like the plot of a horror movie targeting an audience of amphibians: More than 1,000 toads had puffed up and exploded in a pond in Hamburg, Germany, according to an online report by the Associated Press. Tests of the water in the pond, which has been closed to the public, have not revealed any bacteria or viruses that might explain the gory scene. When a toad explodes, its entrails are hurled as far as a meter, sometimes ending up on tree limbs, from which they dangle like grisly sphagnum moss. The culprits behind this mass die-off of toads may be ranaviruses or chytridiomycosis, both of which have been linked to past mass mortalities of amphibians, including toads, according to Peter Daszak, Ph.D., in a posting on the International Society for Infectious Disease Web site. The toads had congregated in the pond to breed, making them an ideal target for an epidemic, explains Dr. Daszak, executive director of the New York think tank Consortium for Conservation Medicine. The toads may not die when they explode. Rather, they may die, and then, after a sufficient buildup of gases produced by gut bacteria, explode, he has suggested. Either way, women still mired in fantasies engendered by childhood fairy tales had better watch who/what they kiss if they harbor dreams of a happy ending.