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New study sheds light on frog malformations

The emergence of mutant frogs with extra arms and legs may smack of a low-budget sci-fi script. But it is a reality, and a new study provides more evidence that ultraviolet radiation could be responsible. The findings are reported in three consecutive papers in the July 1 print issue of Environmental Science & Technology, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

Concern has been mounting for years over the depletion of the ozone layer the atmospheric shield that helps block harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from reaching the Earth's surface. At the same time amphibian populations have been declining, and many have been turning up with unusual malformations, such as missing or extra limbs.

A number of causes have been suggested to explain the malformations, including exposure to chemicals and parasites. Only recently have researchers been examining the potential connection to UV radiation to determine if it is coincidence or something more.

Until now, most of the research has focused on exposing frogs to UV radiation in the laboratory, providing little information about how these findings translate to natural habitats. "We really wanted to fill the gap between the findings of other laboratory research and what might happen in natural environments," said Steve Diamond, Ph.D., an environmental toxicologist at the United States Environmental Protection Agency in Duluth, Minn., and an author on all three papers.

In the first study, Diamond and his colleagues kept frog eggs in small outdoor containers while exposing them to varying degrees of UV radiation from 25 to 100 percent of natural sunlight. As the eggs developed, the researchers observed hatching success, tadpole survival and the presence of malformations. They found that the frequency of malformations increased with increasing UV radiation, with half of the frogs experiencing malformations at 63.5 percent of the
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Contact: Beverly Hassell
b_hassell@acs.org
202-872-4065
American Chemical Society
18-Jun-2002


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