X-ray studies shed light on frog deformities

Editors: For a link to reproducible pictures and x-rays and to other amphibian press releases, please go to http://www.usgs.gov/amphibians.html

The most extensive and detailed study of bone changes found in malformed frogs to date shows that both time- and location-specific environmental events may influence the development of these malformations, according to a paper that will be published soon in the journal Teratology. The study revealed that similar malformations are occurring in frogs collected at the same time from a particular site, indicating that tadpoles at specific sites have received the same type of environmental insult at the same developmental stage.

The data represent 180 frogs collected at 16 sites in three states -- Maine, Minnesota and Vermont -- over two years of study and is the result of a large multi-agency effort involving the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, University of Wisconsin Department of Anatomy, NIH-National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Key to accomplishing this multi-agency work was a Memorandum of Understanding between NIEHS and USGS.

Since middle-school students on an outing discovered large numbers of deformed frogs in a Minnesota pond in 1995, the dramatic increase in recent reports of malformed frogs has drawn the attention of scientists and the public. Malformed frogs are now documented in 44 states, in 38 species of frogs and 19 species of toads, with estimates of deformities as high as 60 percent in some local populations. Scientists now agree that current numbers of reported malformations exceed any norm and that the situation warrants urgent attention. These die-offs and deformities of amphibians around the globe are of great concern because amphibians are good baromete

Contact: Catherine Haecker
United States Geological Survey

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