Help Solve the Case Teacher Sheet

Help Solve the Case Teacher Sheet


Sandra Markle’s book, The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs, follows biologist Karen Lips as she struggles to solve the mystery of what is causing the disappearance of the Panamanian golden frog. The book shows how a scientist performs an investigation to solve a problem. Students will see that sometimes an investigation is successful only by involving different scientists who are experts in different fields. As they read the book, they should put themselves in the place of Dr. Lips and help her solve the mystery. (Adapted from Sandra Markle’s blog “Write On!”) This sheet provides some answers to the questions.

I.       Karen Lips discovered the first frog victims.

When did she make this discovery?
She made the discovery in 1996.

Where in the world were the bodies?
They were found in the forests of Panama.

Why was it important that the dead frogs were not decayed?
It means they had died recently.

II.    Just as detectives get help from a Medical Examiner, Karen Lips turned to a pathologist, someone who studies diseases.

Check out the clue the pathologist discovered when he looked at a sample of the frog victim's skin with a microscope. He reported that it wasn't like anything he'd ever seen before.

So Karen Lips decided to check out the three usual suspects that kill animals:

  1. Habitat (home territory) Destruction
  2. Pollution
  3. Climate Change

III. Keep on reading to investigate and learn the answers to these questions.

What kind of habitat do Panamanian golden frogs need to be healthy?
They need a habitat with temperatures of 68º–73ºF (20º–23ºC), shady and misty with high humidity, and close to fast-flowing streams.

Why was habitat destruction proved not guilty of killing the golden frogs?
The forest where they were located was untouched and too far from cities for most people to visit.

Why would polluted streams be a big problem for adult golden frogs?
Chemicals could affect their skin or prevent them from breeding and laying eggs.

Why would polluted water be especially bad for tadpoles (baby golden frogs)?
It could be especially bad for tadpoles because they live in the water.

Why did Karen decide water pollution definitely wasn't killing the golden frogs?
She made that decision because the forest where the frogs were found wasn’t polluted and was far from any factories that might carry pollutants into the forest.

What two things did Karen Lips then check out to prove climate change wasn’t the frog killer?
She checked out the conditions in the forest and found that they were the same as before.

Joyce Longcore finally identified the frog killer as a chytrid fungus, a kind of plantlike living thing. What did she see that let her figure out this was the killer?
She found a cell with a whip-like tail that told her it was the chytrid fungus.

Because she was the first to identify this new kind of chytrid fungus, Joyce was allowed to name it. She called it Batachochytrium dendrobatidis—Bd for short.

IV. Now that the killer's identity is known, students’ job is to stop it from killing more golden frogs.

Students will need to find out these two things about how this killer attacks its victims. They should use the clues they've already discovered to answer these questions:

  • Who's more at risk—adult golden frogs or tadpoles?
    Adult frogs are more at risk because their skin contains keratin, which is what Bd attaches to.
  • In what kinds of environmental conditions is Bd most likely to kill?
    The best temperature for Bd is 73ºF, and Bd doesn’t grow if the temperature reaches 82ºF or warmer.

Armed with that profile of the killer, you can help the scientific SWAT team save Panamanian golden frogs from being killed by Bd.

Which of the steps listed below needs to be done first, second, third, and so forth?

  • Carry golden frogs in plastic bags to cleaning sites. (2)
  • Ship healthy frogs to zoos with special golden frog habitats. (4)
  • Breed golden frogs in zoo habitats to maintain the golden frog population. (5)
  • Collect both male and female golden frogs from their wild habitat. (1)
  • Treat captured golden frogs with a fungus-killing chemical for ten days. (3)

What are two things being done to try and wipe out the chytrid fungus so frogs can be safe in the wild?
The steps being taken include growing a bacterium that kills the fungus and bathing frogs in it, and then introducing the bacterium into the water and soil in an environment so it’ll spread naturally.


This teacher sheet is a part of the The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs lesson.

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