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Toxicity of two insecticides to california, USA, anurans and its relevance to declining amphibian populations


  • Donald W. Sparling,

    Corresponding author
    1. Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois 62901, USA
    • Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois 62901, USA
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  • Gary M. Fellers

    1. U.S. Geological Survey, Western Ecology Research Center, Pt. Reyes National Seashore, Pt. Reyes, California 94956
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  • Published on the Web 3/16/2009.

  • Any use of trade, product, or firm names in this publication is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. government.


Contaminants have been associated with population declines of several amphibian species in California (USA). Pesticides from the Central Valley of California are transported by winds into the Sierra Nevada Mountains and precipitate into wet meadows where amphibians breed. The present study examined the chronic toxicity of two of the insecticides most commonly used in the Central Valley and found in the mountains, chlorpyrifos and endosulfan, to larval Pacific treefrogs (Pseudacris regilla) and foothill yellow-legged frogs (Rana boylii) and discusses the implications of this toxicity to declining amphibian populations. Larvae were exposed to the pesticides from Gosner stages 25 to 26 through metamorphosis. The estimated median lethal concentration (LC50) for chlorpyrifos was 365 μg/L in P. regilla and 66.5 μg/L for R. boylii. Time to metamorphosis increased with concentration of chlorpyrifos in both species, and cholinesterase activity declined with exposure concentration in metamorphs of both species at Gosner stages 42 to 46. For endosulfan, the estimated LC50 was 15.6 μg/L for P. regilla and 0.55 μg/L for R. boylii. All R. boylii exposed to concentrations of greater than 0.8 μg/L died before they entered metamorphosis. Pseudacris regilla remains relatively abundant and is broadly distributed throughout California. In contrast, R. boylii is among the species experiencing severe population declines. The present study adds to the increasing evidence that pesticides are very harmful to amphibians living in areas that are miles from sources of pesticide application.

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