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Wildlife researchers identify impacts of contamination in amphibians

Bill Hopkins, fisheries and wildlife associate professor in Virginia Tech's College of Natural Resources, and colleagues doing research at the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory and in the field, have demonstrated that amphibians are exposed to contaminants through maternal transfer, as has been proven for other vertebrates.

The research has been published in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) journal, Environmental Health Perspectives ("Reproduction, Embryonic Development, and Maternal Transfer of Contaminants in the Amphibian Gastrophryne carolinensis," by William Alexander Hopkins, Sarah DuRant, a fisheries and wildlife graduate student at Virginia Tech; Brandon Staub, a research technician with the University of Georgia; Christopher Rowe, an environmental toxicologist with the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland; and Brian Jackson, an analytical chemist at Dartmouth College, http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov).

While working as an assistant professor and research scientist with the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory in Aiken, S.C., Hopkins and colleagues collected dozens of reproductively active female eastern narrow mouth toads located around a settling basin near a coal burning power plant outside of Aiken.

The burning of coal is responsible for the release of mercury, selenium, and other harmful contaminants into the environment. The research team tested the toads and their offspring for the presence of chemical contaminants, and their offspring were examined for developmental abnormalities such as structural malformations and abnormal swimming. "We also looked at clutch size (number of eggs), how many eggs successfully hatched, along with developmental characteristics such as pigmentation and spinal formation," says Hopkins.

Both the adult females and their offspring from the power plant's settling basin were compared to adults and their offspring from a reference site, whic
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Contact: Lynn Davis
davisl@vt.edu
540-231-6157
Virginia Tech
21-Feb-2006


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