Effects of pesticides on amphibians with special reference to the pyrethroid insecticide, cypermethrin Public Deposited

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  • Pollution by pesticides is a ubiquitous concern for wildlife. The effects of pesticides are especially concerning in aquatic environments, which are particularly vulnerable as they have several exposure routes for the influx of chemicals. These effects are of particular concern as biodiversity loss reaches unprecedented rates. This includes recent declines of amphibian populations and loss of amphibian species. Pesticide exposure may contribute to some amphibian populations and extinctions. This dissertation explores the effects of pesticides on amphibians, with particular reference to the pyrethroid insecticide cypermethrin. I first synthesized acute toxicity data of pesticides for amphibians from the literature (Chapter 2). Using 96h LC50 values for amphibian larvae exposed to insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides, I determined that amphibian species cannot be systematically classified as sensitive or tolerant to pesticides. Rather, relative acute lethal toxicities varied among species and between chemicals and types of pesticides even within a species, indicating that no amphibian species from this analysis can represent anticipated toxic effects to all amphibians. I next examined the differences in sensitivity to cypermethrin among three developmental stages for three anuran (frog) species (Chapter 3). I experimentally exposed embryos, recently hatched larvae and larvae with limb buds to cypermethrin in the laboratory. Exposure to cypermethrin had lethal and sublethal effects on some species and stages, but not all. The Pacific treefrog (Pseudacris regilla) was the most sensitive species and the early larval stage was the most sensitive for these three species. Additionally, cypermethrin exposure induced abnormal behavior in response to prodding for some species and stages. These results indicate differences in sensitivity to cypermethrin among species of amphibians. To further understand differences in sensitivity to pesticides among amphibians, I compared how three populations of P. regilla responded to cypermethrin exposure (Chapter 4). I performed a time-to-death assay in the laboratory, exposing newly hatched larvae from each population to cypermethrin under identical conditions. All populations had high rates of mortality when exposed to cypermethrin compared to unexposed controls and populations varied in the time to death. Moreover, exposed individuals were smaller than unexposed controls. Interestingly, population sensitivity did not appear to be associated with proximity to agriculture, but rather with elevation gradient, indicating that an evolved tolerance to pesticide exposure is not the mechanism for the differences in sensitivity observed here. To investigate the effects of cypermethrin on amphibians within a community context, I studied exposure in mesocosms (Chapter 5). I set up semi-natural aquatic ponds in enclosures that contained zooplankton, phytoplankton, and periphyton along with amphibian larvae. I experimentally exposed these mesocosms to cypermethrin and measured the effects on the amphibians and the other members of the community. Cypermethrin affected the entire aquatic community, even at the lowest dose, indicating the direct and indirect deleterious effects of cypermethrin on both invertebrate and vertebrate species in an aquatic community. This dissertation provides needed data on the effects of the pyrethroid insecticide cypermethrin on amphibians and their communities. Understanding the toxicity of newer, commonly used pesticides to non-target organisms is important as conservation biologists and managers make efforts to combat future amphibian population declines which may be associated with chemicals in the environment.
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