• Open Access

Phylogeny meets ecotoxicology: evolutionary patterns of sensitivity to a common insecticide


John I. Hammond, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA.
Tel.: 505 277 3021;
fax: 505 277 0304;
e-mail: jih36@pitt.edu


Pesticides commonly occur in aquatic systems and pose a substantial challenge to the conservation of many taxa. Ecotoxicology has traditionally met this challenge by focusing on short-term, single-species tests and conducting risk assessments based on the most sensitive species tested. Rarely have ecotoxicology data been examined from an evolutionary perspective, and to our knowledge, there has never been a phylogenetic analysis of sensitivity, despite the fact that doing so would provide insights into patterns of sensitivity among species and identify which clades are the most sensitive to a particular pesticide. We examined phylogenetic patterns of pesticide sensitivity in amphibians, a group of conservation concern owing to global population declines. Using the insecticide endosulfan, we combined previously published results across seven species of tadpoles and added eight additional species from the families Bufonidae, Hylidae, and Ranidae. We found significant phylogenetic signal in the sensitivity to the insecticide and in the existence of time lag effects on tadpole mortality. Bufonids were less sensitive than hylids, which were less sensitive than the ranids. Moreover, mortality time lags were common in ranids, occasional in hylids, and rare in bufonids. These results highlight the importance of an evolutionary perspective and offer important insights for conservation.