The decline of many amphibian populations is associated with pesticides, but for most pesticides we know little about their toxicity to amphibians. Malathion is a classic example; it is sprayed over aquatic habitats to control mosquitoes that carry malaria and the West Nile virus, yet we know little about its effect on amphibians. I examined the survival of six species of tadpoles (wood frogs, Rana sylvatica; leopard frogs, R. pipiens; green frogs, R. clamitans; bullfrogs, R. catesbeiana; American toads, Bufo americanus; and gray tree frogs, Hyla versicolor) for 16 d in the presence or absence of predatory stress and six concentrations of malathion. Malathion was moderately toxic to all species of tadpoles (median lethal concentration [LC50] values, the concentration estimated to kill 50% of a test population, ranged from 1.25–5.9 mg/L). These values are within the range of values reported for the few amphibians that have been tested (0.2–42 mg/L). In one of the six species, malathion became twice as lethal when combined with predatory stress. Similar synergistic interactions have been found with the insecticide carbaryl, suggesting that the synergy may occur in many carbamate and organophosphate insecticides. While malathion has the potential to kill amphibians and its presence is correlated with habitats containing declining populations, its actual role in amphibian declines is uncertain given the relatively low concentration in aquatic habitats.
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