Metal levels in southern leopard frogs from the Savannah River Site: Location and body compartment effects

Joanna Burger, Joel Snodgrass

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29 Scopus citations


Tadpoles have been proposed as useful bioindicators of environmental contamination; yet, recently it has been shown that metal levels vary in different body compartments of tadpoles. Metals levels are higher in the digestive tract of bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) tadpoles, which is usually not removed during such analysis. In this paper we examine the heavy metal levels in southern leopard frog (R. utricularia) tadpoles from several wetlands at the Savannah River Site and test the null hypotheses that (1) there are no differences in metal levels in different body compartments of the tadpoles, including the digestive tract; (2) there are no differences in heavy metal levels among different wetlands; and (3) there are no differences in the ratio of metals in the tail/body and in the digestive tract/body as a function of metal or developmental stage as indicated by body weight. Variations in heavy metal levels were explained by wetland and body compartment for all metals and by tadpole weight for selenium and manganese. In all cases, levels of metals were higher in the digestive tract than in the body or tail of tadpoles. Metal levels were highest in a wetland that had been remediated and lowest in a wetland that was never a pasture or remediated (i.e., was truly undisturbed). Although tadpoles are sometimes eaten by fish and other aquatic predators, leopard frogs usually avoid laying their eggs in ponds with such predators. However, avian predators will eat them. These data suggest that tadpoles can be used as bioindicators of differences in metal levels among wetlands and as indicators of potential exposure for higher-trophic-level organisms, but that to assess effects on the tadpoles themselves, digestive tracts should be removed before analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-166
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)

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