Navigation Links
New study points to agriculture in frog sexual abnormalities

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- A farm irrigation canal would seem a healthier place for toads than a ditch by a supermarket parking lot.

But University of Florida scientists have found the opposite is true. In a study with wide implications for a longstanding debate over whether agricultural chemicals pose a threat to amphibians, UF zoologists have found that toads in suburban areas are less likely to suffer from reproductive system abnormalities than toads near farms where some had both testes and ovaries.

"As you increase agriculture," said Lou Guillette, a distinguished professor of zoology, "you have an increasing number of abnormalities."

Guillette is one of several UF authors of a paper on the research appearing in the online version of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The lead author is Krista McCoy, who did the work as part of her UF School of Natural Resources and the Environment dissertation.

Several past studies have suggested a link between herbicides commonly used in farming and sexual abnormalities in tadpoles and frogs. Such deformities may be responsible for declines in frogs documented in areas affected by agricultural contaminants, such as Sierra Nevada, Calif., McCoy said. Amphibians are declining worldwide and agricultural chemicals are considered to be one likely cause, she said. Others include pathogenic infections and habitat loss.

Past research has compared frogs collected from natural areas with those collected from agricultural areas. Other efforts have pointed to specific chemicals, including the herbicide Atrazine, as causing abnormalities. The UF study is the first peer-reviewed study to compare abnormalities in wild toads toads are a variety of frogs -- from heavily farmed areas with frogs from both partially farmed and completely suburban areas. In so doing, it highlights the difference between the impact of agriculture versus development.

"Our study is the first to explicitly ask, of these two areas of human disturbance, do we see a greater proportion of abnormal animals in one versus another?" Guillette said.

Because the results implicate agriculture, future research can narrow the focus to agricultural chemicals, McCoy said.

"Because we know what chemicals are used at these agricultural sites, we can begin to pin down the chemical cause of these abnormalities by conducting controlled experiments with each chemical alone and in combination," she said.

The researchers gathered giant toads, known scientifically as Bufo marinus, from five sites stretching from Lake Worth to Belle Glade and down to Homestead in South Florida. Bufo marinus is a very large, exotic, invasive, species known to be deadly to small animals. Guillette said the researchers studied the toad in part because they are easy to catch and their large size ensures enough blood for analysis. Also, he said, "they are common in other agricultural areas around the world," which means they are a good generalist species.

One of the sites consisted almost entirely of land devoted to sugar cane or vegetable farms. The amount of farmland declined in three other sites, with the last being entirely suburban. Researchers calculated the amount of farmland in each site using Google Earth images.

Each site was 2.1 square miles, with the toads collected at the center. That's because the toad's home range is known to be about 1.2 miles, and the researchers sought only those toads living entirely within each site. The researchers collected at least 20 toads from each site in 2005 and 2006.

Examination of the euthanized toads revealed a pattern: The more agricultural the land where they lived, the more sexual organ abnormalities or so-called "intersex" toads -- toads who have both female and male internal reproductive organs, not a normal condition for this and most species of amphibians.

While normal male toads' forelimbs are thicker and stronger than those of their female counterparts, more of the intersex frogs only found in agricultural areas had thin, weak forearms. Also, intersexes had fewer "nuptial pads," areas of scrappy skin on their feet used to grip females during copulation.

Where a sex was clear, the male toads appeared by far the most affected. Normal males are brown, while females are mottled with brown stripes. However, males from agricultural areas were mottled, looking like females.

Internally, the more agricultural the sites, the more feminized the males' reproductive organs. Many had both ovaries and testes. Not only that, both the impacted males and the intersex frogs had less of the male hormone testosterone than normal males, suggesting diminished reproductive capabilities, Guillette said.

Guillette and McCoy said the study's results may have important implications not only for other wild species, but also for people.

"What we are finding in Bufo marinus might also occur in other animals, including other amphibian species and humans," McCoy said. "In fact, reproductive abnormalities are increasing in humans and these increases could partially be due to exposure to pesticides."


Contact: Lou Guillette
University of Florida

Related biology news :

1. Childhood obesity indicates greater risk of school absenteeism, Penn study reveals
2. A study by the MUHC and McGill University opens a new door to understanding cancer
3. Study begins to reveal clues to the cause and progression of sepsis
4. Clones on task serve greater good, evolutionary study shows
5. New study warns limited carbon market puts 20 percent of tropical forest at risk
6. New study examines how rearing environment can alter navigation
7. Study links cat disease to flame retardants in furniture and to pet food
8. New continent and species discovered in Atlantic study
9. Study shows link between alcohol consumption and hiv disease progression
10. Feeling hot, hot, hot: New study suggests ways to control fever-induced seizures
11. Study finds environmental tests help predict hospital-acquired Legionnaires disease risk
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/19/2015)... -- Although some 350 companies are actively involved in molecular ... according to Kalorama Information. These include Roche Diagnostics, Hologic, Abbott ... of the 6.1 billion-dollar molecular testing market, according to ... Diagnostic s .    ... one company and only a handful of companies can ...
(Date:11/17/2015)... Paris , qui ... Paris , qui s,est tenu du ... leader de l,innovation biométrique, a inventé le premier scanner ... sur la même surface de balayage. Jusqu,ici, deux scanners ... les empreintes digitales. Désormais, un seul scanner est en ...
(Date:11/12/2015)... 2015  A golden retriever that stayed healthy despite ... has provided a new lead for treating this muscle-wasting ... Institute of MIT and Harvard and the University of ... Cell, pinpoints a protective gene that ... effects. The Boston Children,s lab of Lou Kunkel ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... 2015 --> ... "Oligonucleotide Synthesis Market by Product & Services (Primer, Probe, ... DNA, RNAi), End-User (Research, Pharmaceutical & Biotech, Diagnostic Labs) ... market is expected to reach USD 1,918.6 Million by ... CAGR of 10.1% during the forecast period. ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 24, 2015 SHPG ) announced today that ... Piper Jaffray 27 th Annual Healthcare Conference in ... at 8:30 a.m. EST (1:30 p.m. GMT). --> SHPG ... will participate in the Piper Jaffray 27 th Annual Healthcare ... Tuesday, December 1, 2015, at 8:30 a.m. EST (1:30 p.m. GMT). ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... CITY , Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - ... "Company") announced today that the remaining 11,000 post-share ... Share Purchase Warrants (the "Series B Warrants") subject ... were exercised on November 23, 2015, which will ... Shares.  After giving effect to the issuance of ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... InSphero AG, the leading supplier of ... has promoted Melanie Aregger to serve as Chief Operating Officer. , Having ... management team and was promoted to Head of InSphero Diagnostics in 2014. ...
Breaking Biology Technology: