X-ray studies shed light on frog deformities

e Vermont frogs missing entire limbs, x-rays revealed that 73 percent were also missing bones in the hip, providing evidence that a predator had not removed the limbs, but that developmental errors were to blame.

"The wide geographic occurrence and the variety of malformations that occur in free-living frogs,"said Meteyer, "suggest that both site-specific and time-dependent influences may be involved in the development of these malformations. Since similar malformations are occurring in frogs collected at the same time from a particular site, it seems that tadpoles at a specific site have received the same type of developmental insult at the same stage of development."

The paper also discusses the varied current hypotheses proposed as causes of malformations in light of the x-ray data presented in this paper. Several hypotheses are being considered to explain the causes of malformations, including chemical contamination; infection with metacercariae, a kind of immature parasitic worm; exposure to the suns ultraviolet rays; and physical trauma. Based on the x-ray data presented in the Teratology study, Meteyer and her colleagues feel that none of the current hypotheses adequately address the full range of malformations.

"The detailed descriptions and classification presented in this paper will contribute to the foundation for further multidisciplinary research designed to provide insights into the causes of malformations in free-living frogs,"Meteyer said.

Scientists at the NIHs National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences are currently attempting to identify potential malformation-causing agents in the environment where deformations occur and are exploring their potential role in this complex problem. Dr. Jim Burkhart, the biochemist responsible for the NIEHS efforts to evaluate whether agents present in the water may be contributing to the increase in frog malformations, said, "The likelihood of multiple causes demonstrated by this w

Contact: Catherine Haecker
United States Geological Survey

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