Early exposure to insecticides gives amphibians higher tolerance later

July 29, 2013

Amphibians exposed to insecticides early in life—even those not yet hatched—have a higher tolerance to those same insecticides later in life, according to a recent University of Pittsburgh study.

Published in Evolutionary Applications, the Pitt study found that wood residing farther from agricultural fields are not very tolerant to a particular type of insecticide, but they can become more tolerant with early exposure.

"This is the first study to show that tadpole tolerance to insecticides can be influenced by exposure to insecticides extremely early on in life—in this case, as early as the ," said study principal investigator Rick Relyea, Pitt professor of biological sciences within the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and director of the University's Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology.

"Amphibian populations are declining worldwide, and pesticides and insecticides are one hypothesized cause," said Jessica Hua, lead author of the paper and a PhD candidate studying biological sciences in Relyea's laboratory. "So this discovery has promising implications for the persistence of ."

The Pitt team—which also included Nathan Morehouse, Pitt assistant professor of biological sciences—examined three potential factors that might allow larval to have a high tolerance to the insecticide: the concentration of the initial insecticide exposure, the timing of the exposure, and the population's history of exposure. They chose to work with carbaryl, a popular household insecticide that also is used for .

The researchers conducted experiments with both embryos and that were collected as newly laid eggs from four Pennsylvania ponds—two near and two farther away. Both embryos and hatchlings from all four environs were first exposed to a low, nonlethal concentration of the insecticide. Later, they exposed the same individuals to a lethal concentration of the insecticide at the tadpole stage and measured the tadpoles' mortality rates over the course of several weeks.

Next, the team wanted to observe whether insecticide tolerance played a role in the frogs' acetylcholinesterase (AChE), a key enzyme in the nervous system of animals. Carbaryl is known to bind itself to this AChE enzyme in frogs, causing their nervous systems to slow. The Pitt team measured the concentration of total tadpole AChE in a sample of tadpole bodies, finding that low exposure levels of carbaryl stimulated the tadpoles to produce greater amounts of the enzyme—making them more tolerant to the insecticide later in life.

The team is now examining whether exposure to an insecticide early in life can make amphibians more tolerant to other insecticides.

"In other words, we are asking if a tolerance to one can convey cross tolerance to other insecticides that affect the nervous system similarly," said Hua.

Explore further: Research finds that low concentrations of pesticides can become toxic mixture

More information: The paper, "Pesticide Tolerance in Amphibians: Induced Tolerance in Susceptible Populations, Constitutive Tolerance in Tolerant Populations," first appeared online in Evolutionary Applications.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Scientists overcome key CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing hurdle

December 1, 2015

Researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT have engineered changes to the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing system that significantly cut down on "off-target" ...

Study finds 'rudimentary' empathy in macaques

December 1, 2015

(Phys.org)—A pair of researchers with Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Université Lyon, in France has conducted a study that has shown that macaques have at least some degree of empathy towards their fellow ...

Which came first—the sponge or the comb jelly?

December 1, 2015

Bristol study reaffirms classical view of early animal evolution. Whether sponges or comb jellies (also known as sea gooseberries) represent the oldest extant animal phylum is of crucial importance to our understanding of ...

Trap-jaw ants exhibit previously unseen jumping behavior

December 1, 2015

A species of trap-jaw ant has been found to exhibit a previously unseen jumping behavior, using its legs rather than its powerful jaws. The discovery makes this species, Odontomachus rixosus, the only species of ant that ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.