Nav: Home

'Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution

March 24, 2017

Researchers at Lancaster University have found a way to detect subtle early warning signs that reveal a frog population is at risk from pollution.

Worldwide, amphibian populations are declining due to habitat loss, disease and pollution which is cited as a major threat to their survival.

Scientists publishing in Scientific Report, have found evidence of stress in tadpoles taken from ponds most impacted by pollution caused by nutrients and pesticides. They say the technique they used to spot these changes could offer an early warning system for populations at risk.

Working over a three-year period they looked at common frog populations in urban and rural ponds subject to varying degrees of pollution. Using a special kind of biochemical 'fingerprinting' detected via infrared spectroscopy, the team looked at tissues taken from tadpoles as well as frogspawn to examine their biochemical makeup - searching for markers such as glycogen which can vary as the organism responds to stress. The team found strong evidence of higher levels of stress in tadpoles living in those ponds most impacted by pollution, more so than frogspawn embryos, which are protected to some degree by their jelly coat.

These subtle detrimental effects are otherwise very hard to detect using conventional biological toxicity tests and analytical chemistry but the new technique of biospectroscopy can act as an early warning before a local population becomes extinct. The test could potentially help scientists carrying out environmental monitoring on frog and amphibian populations to indicate which freshwater systems are at risk from pollution, before it's too late.

Dr Crispin Halsall, an environmental chemist at Lancaster University, said: "Amphibians are particularly vulnerable to contamination due to their sensitive life-stages, particularly tadpoles. Agricultural pesticides and nutrients from fertilisers are a threat to frogs during their breeding season.

"This is the first time we have been able to show that infrared spectroscopy of this kind can pick up on the differences between tadpole populations which have been exposed to low but varying levels of pollution."

Prof Frank Martin of the University of Central Lancashire who has pioneered biospectroscopy methods in both medical and environmental applications, said: ""What we have is a rapid, cost-effective tool for assessing subtle effects of pollution in a vulnerable species. The next steps would be to establish a database of fingerprint spectra of different tissue types as well as non-affected 'control' organisms to compare to pollutant-affected organisms."
-end-


Lancaster University

Related Stress Articles:

Captive meerkats at risk of stress
Small groups of meerkats -- such as those commonly seen in zoos and safari parks -- are at greater risk of chronic stress, new research suggests.
Stress may protect -- at least in bacteria
Antibiotics harm bacteria and stress them. Trimethoprim, an antibiotic, inhibits the growth of the bacterium Escherichia coli and induces a stress response.
Some veggies each day keeps the stress blues away
Eating three to four servings of vegetables daily is associated with a lower incidence of psychological stress, new research by University of Sydney scholars reveals.
Prebiotics may help to cope with stress
Probiotics are well known to benefit digestive health, but prebiotics are less well understood.
Building stress-resistant memories
Though it's widely assumed that stress zaps a person's ability to recall memory, it doesn't have that effect when memory is tested immediately after a taxing event, and when subjects have engaged in a highly effective learning technique, a new study reports.
More Stress News and Stress Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...