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Egg temperature modifies predator avoidance and the effects of the insecticide endosulfan on tadpoles of an Australian frog

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• Attention is shifting from simplistic explanations of global amphibian declines that posit a single cause (such as climate change, pesticide contamination or disease) to more complex scenarios that involve interactive effects. Temperature is a pervasive influence on frog development, particularly during the egg and larval stages. However, the effect of temperatures experienced early in ontogeny on later larval behaviour or response to agrochemicals is little known.

• Eggs of the Australian frog Limnodynastes peronii were reared at two temperatures that simulate naturally occurring cool and warm temperature regimes (14 ± 3 °C and 20 ± 3 °C). Tadpoles were then exposed to sublethal concentrations of the organochlorine insecticide endosulfan, at a common temperature. Endosulfan often contaminates aquatic environments, yet its effects on Australian frogs are unknown. Tadpoles reduced feeding after 48 h of exposure to endosulfan concentrations that occur in the field (both 0·03 µg l−1 and 1·3 µg l−1). Feeding remained depressed at 1·3 µg l−1 endosulfan up to 9 days after tadpoles were transferred to endosulfan-free water.

• Egg-rearing temperature and endosulfan interacted to affect tadpole length. Further, tadpoles exposed to endosulfan were significantly shorter than control tadpoles. They were also more vulnerable to capture by an invertebrate (odonate) predator than controls of the same size when tested 9 days after transfer to clean water. While warm egg-rearing temperatures significantly decreased vulnerability to capture, tadpoles were proportionally more adversely affected by endosulfan. Thus, egg-rearing temperature altered predator avoidance and changed the way in which endosulfan affected growth. Moreover, endosulfan significantly decreased feeding, growth and predator avoidance.

Synthesis and applications. Not only can short-term exposure to endosulfan at levels within regulatory guidelines and frequently reported in natural waterbodies influence tadpole viability, but the sensitivity of the tadpoles to this effect depends upon the thermal regimes that they encounter over their first few days of life. These data therefore suggest that existing water quality prescriptions may not provide adequate protection, while also illustrating how aspects of climate and thermal regimes might interact with pesticides to have cumulative effects on amphibian fitness. Journal of Applied Ecology (2004) 41, 105–113
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Keywords: Australia; climate; fitness; odonate; pesticide; sublethal; temperature

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2004

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