Species-specific responses of developing anurans to coal combustion wastes

Joel W. Snodgrass, William A. Hopkins, Jeffroy Broughton, Daniel Gwinn, Jennifer A. Baionno, Joanna Burger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Field surveys and field experiments have previously documented adverse effects of solid byproducts from coal incineration (coal combustion wastes (CCW)) on larval amphibians inhabiting aquatic habitats. However, a definitive link between CCW-exposure and developmental abnormalities has not been established because no studies have addressed the direct effects of prolonged exposure to CCW on larval amphibian development under controlled laboratory conditions. In the laboratory we exposed green frog (Rana clamitans) and wood frog (Rana sylvatica) larvae to either clean sand or CCW-contaminated sediment to investigate the direct effects of CCW exposure on trace element accumulation, growth, developmental rate, malformations, survival, and metamorphic success. While both species accumulated significant (P<0.05) concentrations of at least six trace elements (As, Cd, Fe, Se, Sr, and V), effects of exposure to CCW varied between species, with R. clamitans larvae experiencing more severe effects including a 26% reduction in survival and a 45% reduction in metamorphic success. Furthermore, exposure to CCW decreased growth and developmental rates among larvae of both species that successfully completed metamorphosis. Larval period duration was increased by 10 and 11%, and size at metamorphosis was decreased by 10 and 39% in R. clamitans and R. sylvatica exposed to CCW, respectively. Rates of malformations were ≤4%, and were not dependent on species or sediment treatment. Our results confirm the direct effects of CCW on aquatic amphibian larvae suggested by previous field studies, and indicate that considerable variation may exist in sensitivity among species exposed to CCW. These findings have important implications for the management of CCW since >50milliont are discharged annually to surface impoundments in the US, which are often used by breeding amphibians.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-182
Number of pages12
JournalAquatic Toxicology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 10 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aquatic Science
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


  • Amphibians
  • Coal combustion wastes
  • Development
  • Metamorphosis

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