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Metal accumulation varies with life history, size, and development of larval amphibians

June 24, 2021

Amphibian larvae are commonly used as indicators of aquatic ecosystem health because they are susceptible to contaminants. However, there is limited information on how species characteristics and trophic position influence contaminant loads in larval amphibians. Importantly, there remains a need to understand whether grazers (frogs and toads [anurans]) and predators (salamanders) provide comparable information on contaminant accumulation or if they are each indicative of unique environmental processes and risks. To better understand the role of trophic position in contaminant accumulation, we analyzed composite tissues for 10 metals from larvae of multiple co-occurring anuran and salamander species from 20 wetlands across the United States. We examined how metal concentrations varied with body size (anurans and salamanders) and developmental stage (anurans) and how the digestive tract (gut) influenced observed metal concentrations. Across all wetlands, metal concentrations were greater in anurans than salamanders for all metals tested except mercury (Hg), selenium (Se), and zinc (Zn). Concentrations of individual metals in anurans decreased with increasing weight and developmental stage. In salamanders, metal concentrations were less correlated with weight, indicating diet played a role in contaminant accumulation. Based on batches of similarly sized whole-body larvae compared to larvae with their digestive tracts removed, our results indicated that tissue type strongly affected perceived concentrations, especially for anurans (gut represented an estimated 46–97% of all metals except Se and Zn). This suggests the reliability of results based on whole-body sampling could be biased by metal, larval size, and development. Overall, our data shows that metal concentrations differs between anurans and salamanders, which suggests that metal accumulation is unique to feeding behavior and potentially trophic position. To truly characterize exposure risk in wetlands, species of different life histories, sizes and developmental stages should be included in biomonitoring efforts.

Publication Year 2021
Title Metal accumulation varies with life history, size, and development of larval amphibians
DOI 10.1016/j.envpol.2021.117638
Authors Kelly L. Smalling, Emily Bea Oja, Danielle M. Cleveland, Jon D Davenport, Collin Eagles-Smith, Evan H. Campbell Grant, Patrick M. Kleeman, Brian J. Halstead, Kenzi M Stemp, Brian J. Tornabene, Zachary J Bunnell, Blake R. Hossack
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Pollution
Index ID 70222067
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Columbia Environmental Research Center; Forest and Rangeland Ecosys Science Center; New Jersey Water Science Center; Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center; Western Ecological Research Center; Eastern Ecological Science Center