1 Tahrcountry Musings: Herbicide may Induce Morphological Changes in Vertebrate Animals

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Herbicide may Induce Morphological Changes in Vertebrate Animals

Dr Rick Relyea, University of Pittsburgh professor of biological sciences in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and director of Pitt's Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology has come up with the startling finding that weed killer, Roundup, can cause amphibians to change shape.  This is the first study to show that herbicide can induce unintended morphological changes in a vertebrate animal.

Predators usually induce tadpoles to change shape by altering the stress hormones. Similar shape changes were noted when tadpoles were exposed to Roundup. In wood frog and leopard frog tadpoles, Roundup induced relatively deeper tails in the same direction and of the same magnitude as the adaptive changes induced by dragonfly cues. 

The data suggest that the herbicide might be activating the tadpoles' developmental pathways used for antipredator responses.

Dr Relyea says collectively, these discoveries suggest that the world's most widely applied herbicide may have much further-reaching effects on nontarget species than previously  considered.

 Journal Reference:
Rick A. Relyea. New effects of Roundup on amphibians: Predators reduce herbicide mortality; herbicides induce antipredator morphology. Ecological Applications, 2012; 22 (2): 634 DOI: 10.1890/11-0189.1

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