Herbicides Damage the Reproductive Health of Leopard Frogs

Learn how herbicides damage the reproductive health of leopard frogs. Researchers found these problems are caused by atrazine, an herbicide commonly used on corn, soybeans and other crops in the Midwest and around the world.

Learn why herbicides damage the reproductive health of leopard frogs.

Learn why herbicides damage the reproductive health of leopard frogs.

PHOTO: FOTOLIA/CATHY KEIFER

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Discover why herbicides damage the reproductive health of leopard frogs. Atrazine and other herbicides are affecting the development and mating habits of leopard frogs.

Herbicides Damage the Reproductive Health of Leopard Frogs

These days, it's not a clear-cut case of "he said-she said" when it comes to frog-mating. Many male frogs may be singin' the blues, unable to attract a female with their connubial calls for coupling.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have found male frogs with diminished vocal organs, as well as ovaries in their testes. The cause, says developmental endocrinologist Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D., is atrazine, an herbicide commonly used on corn, soybeans and other crops in the Midwest and around the world for almost a half-century.

Hayes and his colleagues report that atrazine levels typically found in the environment (which are usually below Environmental Protection Agency standards for drinking water) turn tadpoles into hermaphrodites (having both female and male characteristics), and also reduce testosterone hormones in adult males.

These frogs' feminized fate could signal that the herbicide is subtly affecting human sex hormones, especially in human males. In high doses, this herbicide has the potential to cause cancer.

Atrazine's breakdown products can persist in lakes and groundwater for decades. Water treatment cannot entirely remove the herbicide. France, Germany and Italy are among several countries that have banned its use.

For more "ribbit" research, visit the Frogwatch USA (www.nwf.org/keepthewildalive/frogwatch/) and Frogweb (frogweb.gov) websites.


Green Gazette is written by Claire Anderson, except where noted.